Brad Keselowski needed to finish fifteenth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Ford EcoBoost 400 to win his first NASCAR Sprint Cup championship, and that is exactly what the Penske Dodge driver did.
After 267 laps of racing the driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Penske Dodge was a lap behind the leaders, but it really didn’t matter; the 28-year-old earned himself and Penske Racing the most coveted title in North American racing—a title that had eluded Roger Penske for 24 years.
“It means the world—it really does,” Keselowski told ESPN. “I’ve got the best team in racing, and I’m just so thrilled to be a part of it. From the top down, Roger Penske, [crew chief] Paul Wolfe, everybody else, the crew guys and my family—that means so much.”
Keselowski won a NASCAR Nationwide title for Roger Penske in2010.
Keselowski’s rival, five-time champion Jimmie Johnson, made the race exciting almost until the end. The Hendrick Motorsport driver used pit strategy to position himself for the win—all the cars ahead of him needed two pit stops while the Hendricks Chevrolet would need only one. Had the race played out according to plan, Johnson would have won and Keselowski would have finished 16th, giving Johnson his sixth title.
A dropped lug nut on a lap 213 all but ended Johnson’s chances as the driver had to pit a second time while the pit crew re-secured the wheel. Fifteen laps later a broken rear-end gear sent the car to the garages for the duration, giving Keselowski the championship.
Johnson, who failed to finish the final two races through mechanical failures, refused to feel sorry for himself.
“Pretty heart-breaking,” he told ESPN. “We were doing what we needed to and were certainly in position to put a lot of pressure on the 2 car [Keselowski] but that’s racing. Stuff happens. I am very proud of how we raced all year long the success we had on track. We didn’t get the result but that’s life we come back next year and try again.”
Johnson’s teammate Jeff Gordon, using the same fuel strategy, won the race, advancing to third in lifetime Sprint Cup wins with 87—still a long way behind the legendary Richard Petty’s 200. It was Hendrick Motorsport’s first race win at Homestead-Miami Speedway.