- Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 December 2012 11:54
- Published on Wednesday, 19 December 2012 00:52
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Score one more for the underdog. Brad Keselowski, no one’s pre-season choice to win the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, stumped the experts. Media members, in turn, have voted Keselowski’s title run for owner Roger Penske as NASCAR’s top story of the past season. Keselowski’s first championship prevailed in the voting over Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s drought-busting victory in June at Michigan International Speedway.
1.-Brad Keselowski’s First Championship
Three races into the season and two finishes worse than 30th, Keselowski appeared a dark horse even to qualify for the postseason. But a second consecutive victory at Bristol Motor Speedway helped turn around the fortunes of the No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge team and by mid-September Keselowski was the No. 3 seed when the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup got underway. With two wins in the first three races, Keselowski went from underdog to favorite. He lost the points lead when five-time champion Jimmie Johnson won at Martinsville but refused to fade under pressure. A top-10 finish in the penultimate race at Phoenix coupled with Johnson’s accident and mechanical failure in the finale clinched the title for Keselowski, Penske and crew chief Paul Wolfe.
2.-Dale Earnhardt Jr. Breaks 143-Race Winless Streak
Entering the 2012 season it had been nearly four years and more than 125 races since Earnhardt had won a NASCAR Sprint Cup race. Even some among his legions of fans openly wondered if Junior would ever grab another checkered flag. But this season the Hendrick Motorsports driver brought his “A” game, posting two seconds and a pair of thirds over the schedule’s first nine races. The breakthrough victory came at Michigan International Speedway virtually to the day and at the site of Earnhardt’s last win in June 2008.
3.-Matt Kenseth Wins Daytona 500
No Daytona 500 is ever quite like any other and this year’s Great American Race was no exception. Rain postponed the race for the first time in history dating to the inaugural race in 1959. And the Daytona 500 became a Monday night affair. Matt Kenseth proved to have the winning hand as his No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford led the most laps and held off Earnhardt in a green-white-checker finish to record his second Daytona 500 victory in four years.
4.-Michael Waltrip Racing Makes Chase In Style
Since becoming a fulltime NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team in 2007, Michael Waltrip Racing had experienced the joys of winning but never the fruits of a post-season run. Five seasons of frustration ended in 2012 as not one but two of MWR’s drivers – Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr. – made the Chase.
5.-Hendrick Motorsports Records Milestone 200th Victory
Leave it to Jimmie Johnson to register Hendrick Motorsports’ milestone 200th victory. The organization’s driver with the most championships – five – ended a 16-race, two-season count-down for win No. 200 on May 12 at Darlington Raceway.
6.-Classic Rockingham Raceway Returns To NASCAR In 2012
Rockingham Raceway, has provided many thrills during its five decades as a part of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The track’s run ended after the 2004 season. On April 15. Kasey Kahne, drove his Chevrolet Silverado to Victory Circle posting the first series victory for Turner Motorsports.
7.-Stenhouse Goes Back To Back In The NASCAR Nationwide Series
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. became the sixth member of the series elite. Stenhouse battled The points lead changed hands five times with Stenhouse forging ahead for the final time after a fourth-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway in November.
8.-Patrick Makes History With Top-10 Championship Finish
Her 10th-place NASCAR Nationwide Series championship finish set a new standard for female competitors erasing Sara Christian’s previous record of 13th in 1949 NASCAR Sprint Cup standings.
9.-Ambrose Wins Second At The Glen In Wild Finish
You couldn’t have scripted a wilder finish than that of August’s Finger Lakes 366 at the Glen. The final laps saw leader Busch and Keselowski collide and Keselowski on and off the track and running side-by-side with Ambrose, who finally pulled out a half-second victory off the final turn.
10.-Jeff Gordon Claims Final Wild Card Spot At Richmond
Race No. 26 – the Chase cut-off race at Richmond International Raceway. And the 2012 edition ranks among the best versions since its inception in 2004. For the first time since 2009, a driver outside the Chase bubble raced his way in after the 400-lapper.