NASCAR »

Keselowski seals maiden Cup championship

With some aggressive fuel-saving along the way, Johnson could likely now make it to the end with just one final stop; whereas Keselowski would have to make at least two more stops. That would be fine as long as there were a caution at a suitable point in the remaining 105 laps of the race; Keselowski wasn't to know that there would be no more cautions at all, and that given the relative lack of pace still bedevilling the #2 car his goose was looking increasingly cooked.

At the restart on lap 162, those cars that had stayed out led the field to the green: Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards made up the top five, while behind them Johnson put the boot in on Keselowski with his new tyres and quickly dived under him for position. Within half a dozen laps, Johnson had bounced back up to fourth place - and Keselowski had dropped out of the top ten.

At the front there was a brilliant back-and-forth battle between Kahne and Busch which was finally decided in Busch's favour, and by lap 177 he had already formally clinched the bonus point for most laps led - at least that was one thing that Keselowski didn't need to worry about Johnson getting. Busch continued to lead through to his deferred penultimate pit top on lap 200, with the others soon following him in - Kahne earning a speeding penalty in the process, while Keselowski left it slightly too late and ran dry as he came in, costing him more spots.

Johnson was in the lead; Keselowski was now 24th. As things stood, Johnson had the title in the bag. But there were still 60 laps to go ...

Johnson came in for his final scheduled stop of the day on lap 213, after which he should have been clear to run to the end of the race. Instead, as the #48 pulled away from the pit stall, the NASCAR official was pointing at a wheel to indicate that a lugnut hadn't gone on properly. That was an automatic 'return to the pits' penalty for Johnson. It was a gamechanger that handed the title momentum squarely back in Johnson's favour, as he fell to 25th place a lap off the lead as a result.

That was almost certainly the deciding moment - Keselowski should hunt down that lugnut, take it home and have it stuffed and mounted, because it won him the 2012 championship. Even so, it wasn't quite in the bag just yet: no one was writing off Johnson's supernatural ability to recover when it mattered most, and all it would take was one slip from Keselowski putting the #2 into the wall and the story could yet end completely differently.

The story did take another fork: but it wasn't in Johnson's favour. Just ten laps after the lugnut disaster, Johnson was slowing up and pulling back down to pit road yet again. This time, it was terminal for the #48, with a rare drive line failure meaning that there was nothing Chad Knaus and the crew could do other than forlornly push the car toward the garage area. As the sun set over Homestead-Miami, so Johnson's 2012 title hopes were also finally extinguished.

"There was oil all over under the back of the car, so something happened from either a line failure or a fitting was hit by debris or something and it puked all the gear oil out and burned up the gear," explained a disappointed Johnson.

"I'm proud of the fact that we went out there and backed up what we said we could do and we put the pressure on," he added. "It doesn't take the sting away from losing the championship. It helps in some ways and stings in others, so it balances out, I guess."

That was it: the title was over and done. Keselowski could finish wherever he liked, even crash out entirely, and there was no way Johnson could now pip him to the title. Keselowski was able to coast through the last 40 laps without a care in the world, other that worry about how being a NASCAR Cup champion was going to change his life, how he was going to get through hundreds of media interviews, and just how much beer he would be consuming in the next 24 hours.




Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Ingrid Vandebosch kisses her husband Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 DuPont 20 Years Celebratory Chevrolet, in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 18, 2012 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 DuPont 20 Years Celebratory Chevrolet, takes the chequered flag as he crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 18, 2012 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Crew members push the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, driven by Jimmie Johnson, through the garage area after an incident in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 18, 2012 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Dodge, and team owner Roger Penske celebrate in Champions Victory Lane after winning the series championship and finishing in fifteenth place for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 18, 2012 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Marcos Ambrose in the Richard Petty Motorsport garage at Sonoma Raceway on June 20, 2014 (Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, leads the field after a restart during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, places his name in the top twelve on The Chase Grid after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, takes the chequered flag to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, puts the winner`s sticker on his car in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Cars race during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, leads Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, and Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Aric Almirola, driver of the #43 Eckrich Ford, races Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M`s Toyota, leads the field past the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series MyAFibStory.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #5 Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, celebrates with his son, Keelan, in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Jimmy John`s Freaky Fast 300 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 13, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Splash-FVP/Menards Toyota, leads a pack of trucks during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 225 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 13 2014 in Joliet, Illinois. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Johnny Sauter, driver of the #98 Nextant/Curb Records Toyota, leads the field through the green flag to start the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 225 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 13, 2014 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)

Start the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register before adding your comments.

Although the administrators and moderators of this website will attempt to keep all objectionable comments off these pages, it is impossible for us to review all messages. All messages express the views of the poster, and neither Crash Media Group nor Crash.Net will be held responsible for the content of any message. We do not vouch for or warrant the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any message, and are not responsible for the contents of any message. If you find a message objectionable, please contact us and inform us of the problem or use the [report] function next to the offending post. Any message that does not conform with the policy of this service can be edited or removed with immediate effect.




© 1999 - 2014 Crash Media Group

The total or partial reproduction of text, photographs or illustrations is not permitted in any form.