There will be a new Cup champion
RICHMOND, Va. -- Your 2012 Sprint Cup champion has 10 more weeks to enjoy his reign.
No, Brad Keselowski did not make the Chase on Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway after finishing 17th, despite leading a race-high 142 laps.
He becomes only the second driver to miss the Chase the season after winning the title, joining Tony Stewart, who missed in 2006.
And Keselowski will be the first defending champion to finish lower than 12th. He was obviously not pleased with how his season has gone, but he took it in stride after the race.
"I don't really have any emotions right now," he said. "We weren't good enough to make it and we didn't. That is the reality."
And while Keselowski was feeling the sting of missing the Chase, his teammate, Joey Logano, felt the thrill of making it in for the first time.
That gives Penske Racing a driver in the playoffs, but having two was always the goal, of course.
"Brad has done such a great job, and as I told him today before the race, I said that we might not get in but it is like business, you will have some good months and bad months, but we have a great company," said team owner Roger Penske. "He has done a great job for us with what he is doing on the Nationwide side as well. He deserved better than he got and I think we let him down a couple of times, but overall he is a class guy and a great guy to have on the team and I need to thank him for getting us Joey Logano."
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Ultimately Keselowski was undone by season-long inconsistency both in the pits and on the track. The team made the switch in the offseason from Dodge to Ford, and for whatever reason Keselowski never could find the handle well enough to win a race, much less stay in the top 10.
Late in Saturday's race, he was again asking his crew to "swing for the fences" on a pit stop to try to get the car back under him so he could make a run to the front.
"Yeah, that is just the way our cars have been this year," He said. "They haven't been good enough and we haven't executed as well as we needed to. We have work to do. At the end of the day, the thing about points is it is the best measuring stick in sports.
"You know who deserves to be where because the results speak for themselves. We didn't have enough results to get where we needed to be."
But Logano did find a way to make the Chase by getting into the top 10 and he did win a race this season, but he felt for his teammate. In his first year at Penske, Logano knows the disappointment of missing the playoffs from experience.
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"Yeah, that is tough," he said. "Brad has had fast cars. It is so hard to make this Chase. We both went through a lot this season of having bad finishes and fast race cars.
"It feels good to get in it but I know what he is going through right now and it is tough. He is a champion, though, and he will get through it. If anyone thinks he is going to roll over and die they are crazy. He will win some races for sure."
Keselowski does have the opportunity to finish his season strong and he demonstrated Saturday night he has the speed to win, at times.
And if anything else, his memorable celebration last year at Homestead after winning the title will likely be remembered far longer than what happened this year.
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