Over the course of the 36-race season, the Miller Lite team racked up five wins and came away with 23 top-10 finishes. During the all-important Chase for the Sprint Cup, they stepped up their game even more, winning twice and scoring nine top-10s.
Keselowski walked away with the championship, setting off a victory celebration that will long be remembered by anyone who witnessed it, to give Roger Penske his first Sprint Cup championship. And Dodge walked away on top of the world, carrying home the crown for the fifth time and for the first time since Richard Petty did so in 37 long years ago.
Everybody’s Talking (But The Parties Involved). If you believe the heavily-stoked rumor mill, Kevin Harvick is leaving Richard Childress Racing at the end of 2013 to race for his buddy Tony Stewart. Thing is, the parties involved are playing it close to the vest, though Happy has said he is preparing for departure. It could get real interesting if 2013 starts poorly- it’s a long run for a lame duck.
Kenseth Departs Roush For Gibbs. The number 20 Home Depot ride will have a new occupant, Matt Kenseth. After 13 full seasons racing for Jack Roush, Kenseth now joins forces with Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin. While Kenseth gets ribbed for being robotic, Joe Gibbs will welcome him as a refreshing, calming presence.
Allmendinger Suspended. The move of Kenseth to JGR meant the departure of Joey Logano, who lands in the 22 at Penske Racing, a ride that opened up after the suspension of A.J. Allmendinger after testing positive for a banned substance. Allmendinger quickly submitted with the “Road To Recovery” program and was back in car in short order. The bad news is the affair will likely dash any hopes he has for a top ride.
He was right in there battling for the championship until some bad luck at Martinsville, a race where he was expected to win. His 33rd place finish took him out of contention. Denny Hamlin finished the year with five wins, 14 top five and 17 top ten finishes. He led 1226 laps. His season was only three wins short of matching his season from 2011. For comparison purposes, Brad Keselowski had five wins, 13 top five, and 23 top ten finishes. If Denny could improve the races he finished bad in he would have been right there.
Denny said, “These championships are won — it’s almost the last man standing in the sense of you can’t have a bad race or it will knock you out.”
Denny Hamlin and his No 11 FedEx Joe Gibbs Racing team is back. Denny is looking forward to having former champion Matt Kenseth as a teammate. Denny said,
There’s a certain kind of irony in what you come across when you’re looking up something else.
As I was researching information for another story I’m working on, I happened upon some statistics that gave me pause.
Granted, NASCAR is a cyclical sport. One year you’re way up, the next year you’re potentially way down (if you don’t believe that, just ask Carl Edwards about the difference for him between 2011 and 2012).
But perhaps more than any other full-time Sprint Cup organization, no other group has suffered such a cataclysmic fall over the years than Petty Enterprises/Richard Petty Motorsports.
Team owner and patriarch Richard Petty was indeed The King of NASCAR during much of his own racing career. Not only did he win an incredible 200 races, a mark likely to never be broken, he also was the first driver to win seven Sprint Cup championships in his career (a feat later tied by the late Dale Earnhardt).
He also drove a car with the most famous number in NASCAR history (No. 43) before it was overtaken by the No. 3 driven by Earnhardt.
It started with more promise than many other NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers. Finish the season before tied for the championship but settle for second place because of the tie breaker. Carl Edwards and his Fastenal Ford Team were just supposed to pick up where they left off.
When NASCAR picked it back up at Daytona, Carl Edwards appeared to also pick it back up by getting the pole. He wasn’t able to capitalize on that great start but was able to finish a respectable eighth place. The very next race a Phoenix he didn’t have a very good race and finished seventeenth. This dropped him to tenth in the standings. The next race at Las Vegas was the first of his three top five finishes. He finished fifth that day and moved himself back up in the standings to fifth.
Penske Racing‘s switch from Dodge to Ford in the offseason has been well-documented and should provide championship driver Brad Keselowski with an entirely new set of tools for 2013.
But there’s another change which Keselowski said might have an even bigger impact on Penske next season: The addition of driver Joey Logano as Keselowski’s teammate.
“I think that Joey is an elite talent in this sport and if we can work together, we will both be better,” Keselowski said during a two-day test this week at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “I would rather finish second to him next year in every race and even the championship than to rest on my laurels, not get any better (while) the whole field does and run fifth, 10th, 15th, 17th – whatever it might be – and beat him.
Image source: Chris Balton via Flickr
Tony Stewart won the NASCAR Championship in 2011 in a dramatic fashion by winning five races in the Chase. It looked like in spite of that he was positioning his race team in order to continue that success by hiring a new crew chief, Steve Addington. Although Tony and the Office Depot team didn’t win the Championship, they were in contention.
Tony Piloted his Stewart Haas Chevy to 12 top five finishes, three more than he did the year before when he won the championship. Eight of those finishes were actually top three including three wins. Tony’s Stewart’s season was more about what he and his team was not able to do. His twelve finishes of 20th or worst were momentum and points killers, he only had seven the year before.
If there ever was a driver that suffered with NASCAR’s COT car, it was Jeff Gordon. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the stats for the 41 year old driver of the Dupont Chevrolet since the beginning of the 2008 season. Of the 87 career wins for Gordon, and the four Cup Championships, only six wins have come since NASCAR mandated the COT for 2008. And of course, no championships. He had six wins in 2007 which was a blend of the COT, and the old Monte Carlo.
If the new 6th Generation car is anything like the old Monte Carlo, I expect Gordon to have a stellar year in 2013. The speed at which he and crew chief, Alan Gustafson can get a handle on the new car will go a long way in determining how well Jeff Does next season. With the experience level at Hendrick Motor Sports, you can be sure the stable of all stars will be sharing notes to get everyone off the ground quickly.
I have been a huge Jeff Gordon fan since Ernie Irvan retired with concussion problems during the 1999 season, but was disappointed that he elected to retaliate against Clint Bowyer during the chase. I think Bowyer would have had a chance at Homestead to win the title had he not lost so many points after the wreck in Phoenix. I can only hope he finds a way to make peace with himself and Bowyer before next season begins.
She may also have the longest reigning title holder for this or any other pageant contest. According to the NASCAR website, Rachel Rupert started her reign on September 19, 2010, throughout the 2011 season. It’s now May 2012 and Ms Rupert remains as the title holder. Just sayin. This is a great gig for Ms. Rupert since she has deep roots in NASCAR according to a Daily Home interview.
Will Coors Light be holding another contest soon? She certainly looks great in a Coors Light racing jacket. And wouldn’t mind if she stays on for another year.
Brad Keselowski captured the top spot in the #2 Dodge at the 2012 Aaron’s 499 in Taladega. He had won this race previously in 2009 driving a Chevrolet. Keselowski began the 2012 race at the 13th position.
Brad Keselowsk is sponsored by Miller Lite.
Kyle Busch in the #18 Toyota and Matt Kenseth in the #17 Ford rounded out the top 3 as 2nd and 3rd place respectively.