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Keselowski wins Sprint Cup title

AP
Brad Keselowski (center) holds up his trophy after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla. Keselowski clinched the title after fellow contender Jimmie Johnson pulled out of the season finale because of a parts failure. Jeff Gordon won the race. (AP)

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By The Associated Press
Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, 7:42 p.m.
 

HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Here's a tweet for Brad Keselowski: NASCAR champion.

Roger Penske must like the sound of that, too.

The kid who stole the show at the season-opening Daytona 500 ended the year under the biggest spotlight of them all Sunday, beating five-time champion Jimmie Johnson to deliver the first Sprint Cup championship to Penske Racing.

His first act as champion? Sending a tweet, of course, from inside his car: “We did it!” with a picture of the celebration waiting for him.

“Always, throughout my whole life, I've been told I'm not big enough, not fast enough, not strong enough and I don't have what it takes,” Keselowski said from the championship stage. “I've used that as a chip on my shoulder to carry me through my whole career. It took until this year for me to realize that that was right, man, they were right.

“I'm not big enough, fast enough, strong enough. No person is. Only a team can do that.”

So, with the Penske organization behind him, he delivered a trophy that had eluded “The Captain” since his 1972 NASCAR debut.

Although his motor sports organization is considered the gold standard of open-wheel racing — 15 Indianapolis 500 wins — and his empire has made Penske one of the most successful businessmen in America, his NASCAR team has always been just average.

Then came Keselowski, the blue collar, Twitter-loving, Michigan native who visited Penske in 2008 convinced the NASCAR team could win, too.

Three years later, they hoisted the Sprint Cup trophy together at Homestead-Miami Speedway following Keselowski's 15th-place finish Sunday night.

“It's all about the people in our organization and obviously Brad coming on our board three years ago, and we set a plan, and we stuck to it,” the 75-year-old Penske said. “To win this championship is amazing.”

Keselowski needed 125 starts to win his first title, the fewest starts since four-time champion Jeff Gordon won his first title in 93 starts in 1995.

Keselowski also won a second-tier Nationwide championship in 2010, his first season with Penske and the owner's first official NASCAR title.

Johnson went to pit road for his own stop and pulled away with a missing lug nut. NASCAR flagged the Hendrick Motorsports team, and Johnson was forced back to pit road for another stop.

The Penske team was unsure if Keselowski wanted to know what was going on with Johnson.

“I've got a big picture story if you want to hear it,” a team member radioed, then informed Keselowski that Johnson had to pit again.

“Ten-four. Thank you for telling me. We're back in the game. I got it,” he said.

It got worse for Johnson from there. He broke a rear end gear in his Chevrolet and went to the garage with 40 laps to go, essentially clinching the championship for Keselowski.

“It all unraveled pretty quick,” Johnson conceded.

Gordon, who avoided suspension this week but was fined $100,000 by NASCAR for intentionally wrecking Clint Bowyer last week at Phoenix, overcame the controversy to win the race in a 20th anniversary celebration for sponsor Dupont and Hendrick Motorsports.

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