Keselowski brought dreams to reality in 2012 by winning the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship in Penske Racing history in just his third full season with the team. The championship gave Roger Penske the only title that was missing on his resume in his nearly 30 years of competing in NASCAR and it firmly established Keselowski as one of NASCAR’s true superstars. As Keselowski enters the 2013 season, he will be a leading favorite to put the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion in the championship hunt once again.
The 2012 season saw Keselowski produce career best results on the way to his first Cup Series title and his second championship for Penske Racing to go along with the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) crown he won in 2010. The Rochester Hills, Mich. native recorded a career high five race victories including regular season wins at Bristol, Talladega and Kentucky and two victories during the Chase for the Sprint Cup at Chicago and Dover in the Miller Lite machine. Keselowski also set career bests with 13 top-five and 23 top-10 finishes as well as 735 laps led.
But the story of the year was Keselowski’s determined drive to the top of the standings in which he used his confidence in both his ability as a driver and crew chief Paul Wolfe’s decision making to overcome any obstacle he encountered on the way to his goal. After some initial early-season struggles, the No. 2 Miller Lite team found its form and began to secure its position for the Chase. Keselowski produced a consistent run through the summer in which he finished inside the top-10 in nine of the 10 races leading into the Chase.
Keselowski opened up the Chase postseason with a win at Chicago and with Jimmie Johnson finishing second it set up the duel that would captivate the NASCAR community for the next nine weeks. The five-time champion Johnson took the series lead the next week at Loudon with a runner-up finish but Keselowski countered with his fifth win of 2012 the following week at Dover to catapult himself back to the top position. Keselowski continued to lead the series standings for the next three weeks until Johnson’s consecutive wins at Martinsville and Texas gave him the lead in the title chase with two races to go. Never one to back down in the face of adversity, Keselowski overcame any doubts that he could surpass the former champion as he made the most of his opportunity in Atlanta to finish sixth and overtake Johnson in the rankings. Going into the season’s final race at Homestead with a 20- point lead and needing only a 15th or better finish to clinch the title, Keselowski was determined to race for the win and aggressively pursue the title. When Johnson faced some mechanical challenges late in the race, however, it opened the door for Keselowski who went on to finish 15th and clinch the historic championship.
Keselowski also built on his success in the Nationwide Series in 2012 as he continued his winning ways in the No. 22 Discount Tire/Snap-on Dodge for the third consecutive year. Competing in 21 races, Keselowski posted wins at Charlotte, Loudon and the inaugural NNS race at Indianapolis as well as 11 top-five and 14 top-10 performances.
Growing up in a racing family, Keselowski was well aware of the sacrifices that needed to be made to reach the top level of the NASCAR Cup Series. After years of climbing the rungs of the NASCAR ladder, it’s somehow fitting that Keselowski earned the opportunity to get behind the wheel of one of the most iconic rides in motorsports history – the No. 2 Miller Lite car– and made the most of it in 2011.
Keselowski made the move with confidence and momentum, fresh off his first NASCAR championship in the Nationwide Series in 2010. As Wolfe also moved up to join Keselowski as crew chief of the Miller Lite team in 2011, Keselowski was well positioned for a strong run in the Miller Lite machine.
Keselowski was raised in an environment where spending time at the race shop and the track was just a way of life. His father, Bob Keselowski, was a 1997 race winner in the Camping World Truck Series. His uncle, Ron Keselowski, competed at the Cup Series level in the early 1970s.
At the age of 14, Keselowski made the transition from turning wrenches for his family-owned team, K Automotive Motorsports, to racing. He started competing in the Senior Honda 120 Quarter Midget division in 1998. In his first season, he earned six feature wins. The next year, he moved up to the Senior Honda 160 Quarter Midget division where he won eight feature races and the championship.
In 2000, Keselowski began racing stock cars in the Factory Stock division. That season, he collected nine feature wins as well as Rookie-of-the-Year honors at two Michigan tracks – Auto City Speedway and Dixie Motor Speedway.
During the next three years, Keselowski balanced his budding racing career with his full-time job working for his family’s Camping World Truck Series operation. He advanced to the Limited Late Model and Super Late Model divisions and continued to rack up wins, despite competing on a limited basis.
In 2001, he earned five fast qualifier positions, one feature win and five topfive finishes. Over the next two seasons, he collected 11 fast qualifier positions, two Super Late Model wins, two Limited Late Model victories and nine top-five finishes.
Keselowski graduated to Camping World Truck Series competition in 2004 as he drove the truck operated by his family’s team for eight races. The following season, he ran the full Truck Series schedule. His best finish was seventh, which he recorded in February 2005 at Daytona International Speedway.
In 2006, Keselowski continued to gain more NASCAR experience as he ran a partial schedule in both the Nationwide Series and the Camping World Truck Series. He earned valuable seat time as he competed in 13 combined races – seven in the Nationwide Series and six in the Truck Series. That experience prepared him for 2007, when he caught the eye of Dale Earnhardt Jr., owner of JR Motorsports.
Keselowski entered the 2007 season expecting to compete full-time in the Nationwide Series for Keith Coleman Racing. But Keselowski had to alter his plans when the team suspended operations in June. Keselowski, who already raced in two Truck Series events earlier in the season, was given another chance later that month when Germain Racing needed a last-minute replacement for Ted Musgrave in the Truck Series race at Memphis Motorsports Park.
Though Earnhardt was aware of Keselowski’s talent, he really became intrigued as he watched the young driver win the pole position, lead 62 laps and compete for the win that day in Memphis. But what struck Earnhardt the most about Keselowski was how he handled himself on the track, especially after being spun out with 10 laps to go by eventual race winner Travis Kvapil.
Keselowski still salvaged a 16th-place finish after the incident. The race was the turning point in Keselowski’s NASCAR career. Realizing how much Keselowski had to offer, JR Motorsports signed the young gun to drive the No. 88 car in the Nationwide Series.
Keselowski made his debut for JR Motorsports in the July 2007 Nationwide Series race at Chicagoland Speedway. He earned a 14th-place result – the first of eight top-15 finishes he would score during the season. Keselowski competed in 27 races in all, but earned his best results driving the No. 88 entry, recording five top-10 and eight top-15 finishes in 14 starts.
In 2008, Keselowski enjoyed a banner season. He finished third in the Nationwide Series standings as he produced wins at Nashville Superspeedway and Bristol Motor Speedway in his first full season of Nationwide Series competition. He also earned one pole position, 11 top-five and 20 top-10 finishes.
The promising racer led laps in 21 races for a total of 295 as he earned the WIX Filters Lap Leader Award for 2008. Keselowski also was chosen by the fans as the Nationwide Series’ Most Popular Driver.
On Nov. 2, 2008, Keselowski made his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut at Texas Motor Speedway, driving the No. 25 car for Hendrick Motorsports. He climbed from his 37th starting spot to finish 19th. Later that month, he made his second Cup Series start and finished 23rd in the season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The 2009 campaign was a season to remember for Keselowski. Not only did Keselowski capture four victories and two poles in the Nationwide Series, but he won the biggest race of his career to that point when he took the checkered flag at Talladega Superspeedway in April, marking his first NASCAR Cup Series victory.
Over the final three Cup Series events of the season, Keselowski took over behind the wheel of the No. 12 Penske Dodge and he earned a top finish of 25th place at Homestead.
Keselowski earned four top-10 results in a total of 15 Cup Series starts in 2009. He once again was a force in the Nationwide Series as he finished third in the championship battle for the second consecutive season and he was also voted the Most Popular Driver in the series for the second year in a row.
In 2010, his first full season as a member of the Penske Racing family, Keselowski did something that no other driver in motorsports history was able to accomplish – he captured the first NASCAR championship for legendary team owner Roger Penske. With Wolfe calling the shots, Keselowski re-wrote the record book as he won the 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series title. He also won his first career Cup Series pole at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in September to go with two top-10 finishes and nine results inside the top-15 behind the wheel of the No. 12 Dodge.
The confidence level for Keselowski remained high as he prepared for his first season behind the wheel of the “Blue Deuce.” The 2011 season was full of firsts as it included Keselowski’s first Cup Series win with Penske Racing – which came at Kansas Speedway in June – his first berth in the Chase for the Championship and his first top-five finish in the championship standings. These accomplishments all led to a breakout year for the driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite machine
Following a slow start to the 2011 season in which Keselowski was mired in the 28th position in the point standings after nine races, his season began to turn around following a third-place finish at Darlington Raceway in May. He followed that up with a pole position at Charlotte Motor Speedway the following week. His win at Kansas completed a three-week stretch that propelled the team to torrid summer portion of the schedule that included two more wins at Pocono Raceway and Bristol Motor Speedway, respectively, and the No. 1 “wild card” spot in the Chase for the Championship.
In one of the gutsiest performances in recent sports history, Keselowski picked up his final two victories, along with two more top-three finishes, in a four race stretch immediately after breaking a bone in his left ankle during a testing incident at Road Atlanta in early August. This earned him the 2011 Dale Earnhardt Tough Driver Award by The Sporting News and the respect of everyone in the garage.
Though he wasn’t able to defend his driver’s championship in the Nationwide Series, Keselowski continued to produce at a high level in the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge in 2011. He earned five wins and four poles in 29 races as he scored his 17th career NNS victory. Still, it was his impressive performance at the Cup Series level as the season wore on that made 2011 so special.
As he prepares to defend his Sprint Cup Series title in 2013 with the Miller Lite Ford Fusion, Keselowski continues to mature and grow as a driver. He has demonstrated skill and maturity beyond his years on the track and with the winning combination in place with Wolfe atop the pit box, Keselowski figures to be a championship contender for Penske Racing for years to come.