By admin | January 27, 2013
By Richard Allen
Throughout the month of January, I will be running a series on the 12 drivers I am predicting to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup during the 2013 NASCAR season. The first eleven articles will be placed in no particular order but the final piece written in the series will be on the driver I am selecting as the favorite to win this year’s championship. Half of these pieces will be placed on my own RacingWithRich.com site and half will be placed on BleacherReport.com. Please consider following along on both websites and adding your own thoughts in the “comments” sections below each piece.
The most important thing to come out of 2012 for Brad Keselowski was, obviously, that he won the Sprint Cup championship. But also of importance for the Michigan native was that he became a true superstar on the racing scene.
Keselowski had won races and had been in one of NASCAR’s top rides prior to last season, but he rose to a new level in 2012. Suddenly, he went from being the guy who turned Carl Edwards on the last lap to win at Talladega then got put on his lid in Atlanta by his rival, to a guy whose opinion on all matters racing and otherwise were sought out in the garage area. In other words, he went from being known for a flash to being known as a veteran driver and voice.
Ironically, this transformation began with a flash. When Juan Pablo Montoya skidded into a jet dryer during the nighttime running of the Daytona 500, Keselowski began tweeting pictures and thoughts over Twitter which were then aired by Fox during the delay caused by the oddity. The increased exposure allowed people to realize that this was a driver not afraid to take on tough issues and to speak his mind in terms other than the canned, seemingly pre-approved, statements of other NASCAR personalities.
Keselowski believes that lack of fear in speaking his mind is what has allowed him to emerge as a top driver. “It’s very simple and very important to me,” he said at the end of last season. “I don’t want to answer the phone to the question of, ‘You shouldn’t have talked about that’. I don’t want that. I might miss out on a few deals, but I’m a lot happier as a person and I do a lot better with the fans when I’m just me.
“I believe I know what I’m doing,” he added. “When you believe you know what you’re doing, it’s not hard…when you believe in something, I believe in standing up for it. That’s part of the core of who I am and it’s one of those things that I’ve fed off and have had success, sticking up for myself and following what I know is right. That’s why I am here today.”
But again, the most important aspect of Keselowski’s season was not his meteoric rise off the track, but rather, it was his performance on the track.
Keselowski posted five wins along with 13 top-five and 23 top-10 finishes in his Penske Racing Dodge during 2012. All of those numbers exceeded the totals he had registered over the entirety of his four previous seasons of full and partial scheduling. To call last year a “breakout” season in all facets for this driver would be a huge understatement.
In 2013, Keselowski will continue to perform at the highest of levels on the track and in the press room. However, there will be at least one major change for this driver and team. Dodge will no longer be the manufacturer of choice for Penske Racing as the team announced even before the last season began that they would switch to Ford at the end of the year. So not only will they, like everyone else, be making adjustments to the new ‘Gen-6′ racecar but also to an entirely new brand as well.
Penske will receive its engines from Roush Yates Engines, which have powered the drivers of Roush Fenway Racing and other Ford teams for several years now. The changes may cause a bit of an adjustment period but this driver and team are too talented for there to be an overly difficult stretch.
Brad Keselowski will make the Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff in 2013. But, he is not my pick to win the big trophy.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. Follow along with his Chase for the Sprint Cup series by clicking on the driver of your choice Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch.
Good at picking race winners? Follow @RacingWithRich on Twitter and then Click here to find out how you could win $25 by correctly predicting the winner of the Daytona 500.
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