It's just the beginning for Keselowski and Wolfe
Paul Wolfe saw something special in Brad Keselowski long before Wolfe became his crew chief: Keselowski could make a bad car look good.
"I had seen him win races in cars that I thought weren't as good as cars I was putting on the racetrack at the time," Wolfe said. "As a crew chief or a team, that's always what you want. You want a guy that you know can win races when you might not have the best race car out there. It's part of the reason I was excited about working with Brad."
Wolfe made those comments Sunday night moments after watching Keselowski win the 2012 Sprint Cup championship in only their second full season together.
"I never really looked at it from the standpoint of I want to go win a championship with him," Wolfe said. "I just wanted to go win races and continue to grow as a team."
Brad Keselowski is the new Sprint Cup Champion. Jimmie Johnson's car suffers mechanical issues while teammate Jeff Gordon wins at Homestead.
Here's a look at the numbers on just how much they've grown:
• Keselowski's championship came in just his third full season in Cup. In the modern era (since 1972), Keselowski is just the third driver to win a Cup title within his first three seasons. He joins Dale Earnhardt (who won the 1980 title in his second full season) and Jeff Gordon (he won in 1995, his third full season).
• Keselowski was 25th in points in 2010, failing to finish better than 10th in any race. Last season, with the addition of Wolfe, Keselowski jumped to fifth in the standings, making his first Chase.
• Keselowski is only the second driver to win a Cup title and one other NASCAR touring series (Nationwide). Bobby Labonte, the 2000 Cup champ, also won the 1991 Nationwide title, which was the Busch Series at the time.
• In a way, Keselowski starts a new era. He is the first driver to win a Chase playoff who never raced in the old full-season points system.
One of many things that made winning the title special for Keselowski was he had to beat the five-time champion and the No. 48 Chevy team to do it.
Jimmie Johnson was in contention to win late in Sunday's race before things fell apart. A missed lug nut on pit road set him back, but the end came when a rear gear broke with 40 laps to go. Keselowski finished 15th, which would've given him the title even if Johnson had won the race.
"Jimmie is the best of the best," Keselowski said. "He proved it here today. He was going to win this race, and I knew that. We were not as fast as we wanted to be, but my guys never gave up.
"I'm so thankful that we drove back to 15th so that I don't have to hear for the rest of my life about how if the 48 had not had those problems he'd have won the championship."
For Johnson, it was his 10th top-5 finish in the points, making him the third driver since 1990 to post at least 10 top-5 seasons. Mark Martin has 12 and Jeff Gordon has 10, but Johnson has done it in only 11 seasons.
Keselowski now has done it in two of three seasons. It's likely more are coming for both of them.
Nationwide Series: Will Stenhouse follow Keselowski's path?
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. might gain some inspiration from Keselowski. Two years after winning the Nationwide title, Keselowski won his first Sprint Cup title.
Stenhouse won his second consecutive Nationwide crown Saturday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Now he moves to Cup in the No. 17 Ford at Roush Fenway Racing, arguably a much better car than the one Keselowski took over at Penske Racing.
The best news this season in the Nationwide Series is how the Nationwide regulars are winning more races and gaining increased attention. Drivers who aren't Cup regulars won 16 races this season, the most in the series for the Nationwide guys since 2004.
Regan Smith, who was a Cup regular but will race full-time in Nationwide next year for JR Motorsports, won Saturday in his first Nationwide start in five years, a good omen for his championship chances in 2013.
Danica Patrick finished 19th at Homestead, a disappointing ending to a so-so first full season in NASCAR. She had four top-10s in 33 races and finished 10th in the Nationwide standings, but only 13 drivers competed in every event.
Austin Dillon competed for the title until the end and was named rookie of the year one season after winning the Camping World Truck Series title.
Camping World Truck Series: Gale wins finale; Buescher takes title
Busch didn't like it too much, saying Gale pushed him to the wall. That's racing, boys. Gale was going for his first victory on the last lap of the last race. He had no intention of giving ground to a Cup star. Good for him.
Gale won it by inches as the two trucks crossed the line bumping and banging. It was a classic.
Busch's complaints rang hollow for a man who has been involved in more than his share of bumping incidents over the years. Had he done the same thing in a Cup race, more power to him.
The CWTS may have enjoyed its best season ever. There were nine first-time winners and 16 different winners overall in 22 races.
And for the second consecutive year, the series crowned a young, first-time champ with a bright future. Texan James Buescher, 22, has gone from a Bandolero champ at Texas Motor Speedway eight years ago to the CWTS champ now.
Ty Dillon, 20, earned rookie of the year honors in the truck his brother Austin, 22, drove to the championship in 2011. Nine CWTS winners this year were 24 or younger.
The long-term viability of the series has become an issue recently, but the CWTS is a true developmental league with outstanding on-track racing that showcases future stars.
Terry Blount is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Racing Resources says
Sprint Cup Series
• Jeff Gordon won the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday. It was his 87th Cup series win in his 689th start and his first victory at Homestead in his 14th start. His most recent win was at Pocono in August, seven starts prior. The only active track he is still winless on is Kentucky (only two starts there).
• Gordon has four Chase wins (he last won at Martinsville in 2007).
• Gordon led twice for 14 laps, including the final 13.
• Hendrick Motorsports posted its 209th Cup series win. HMS has 10 victories in 2012, most of all teams, and 29 Chase wins. It was HMS's first win at Homestead.
• Chevrolet posted its 15th win of 2012 and third victory at Homestead.
• Clint Bowyer (second) finished a career-best second in points, only one point ahead of Jimmie Johnson in third. His best Homestead finish in his sixth race leaves him with three wins, 10 top-5s and 23 top-10 finishes in 2012.
• Ryan Newman (third) got his best Homestead finish in his 11th race. He finished 14th in points with one win, six top-5s and 14 top-10 finishes.
• Kyle Busch (fourth) led six times for 191 laps, the most of all drivers, but failed to win for the ninth straight time after leading the most laps. He missed the Chase by one point but led all drivers with seven top-5 finishes, the first time a non-Chaser had the most top-5s in the Chase.
• Greg Biffle (fifth) started at the rear in a backup car. He finished fifth in points with two wins, 12 top-5s and 21 top-10 finishes.
• Martin Truex Jr. (sixth) finished 11th in the final standings, matching a career best. He finished 2012 with seven top-5s and 19 top-10 finishes.
• Aric Almirola (seventh) finished in the top 10 in four races this season, including two in the last four races.
• Kurt Busch (ninth) finished in the top 10 in the final three races of the season, the longest streak ever for Furniture Row Racing.
• Brad Keselowski (15th) won the 2012 Sprint Cup championship in his third full-time season. He ended up with five wins, 13 top-5s and 23 top-10 finishes.
• Jimmie Johnson (36th) had his worst finish of the 2012 Chase, leaving him third in points with five wins, 18 top-five finishes and 24 top-10s.
• Regan Smith won the Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Saturday. It was his first career win in his 103rd race. His previous best finish was fifth. Smith is the fourth driver to get his first career win in 2012. He is the sixth driver to score his first career win after 100 or more starts.
• Smith is the 12th different winner of 2012. He is the fourth driver to win in his first series start this season.
• Smith led two times for 24 laps, including the final 22.
• JR Motorsports posted its 10th career win and first win at Homestead.
• Chevrolet posted its 13th win of 2012 and eighth overall victory at Homestead -- both series bests.
• Kyle Busch earned his third second-place finish of 2012. He failed to win a race in 2012, ending an eight-year streak with at least one win (2004-2011).
• Brendan Gaughan (third) got his ninth career top-5 finish and third in 10 starts in 2012.
• Sam Hornish Jr. (fourth) had his best Homestead finish in his fifth race there.
• Austin Dillon (fifth) posted his 16th top-5 finish and season-leading 27th top-10 finish, including the past 12 races.
• Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (sixth) clinched the 2012 Nationwide Series championship after six wins, 20 top-5s and 26 top-10 finishes.
• Ryan Blaney (eighth) now has seven top-10 finishes in 13 career starts, all in 2012.
• Elliott Sadler (ninth) won four times in 2012 and finished second in the championship standings for the second straight year.
• Michael Annett (12th) finished a career-best fifth in points following six top-5s and 17 top-10 finishes.
Camping World Truck Series
• Cale Gale won the Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Friday. It was his first Truck series win in his 32nd start. His previous best finish was fifth (twice). Gale became the ninth first-time winner in 2012 and 16th different driver to win this season. He is the 16th different winner in 17 races at Homestead.
• Gale led only the final lap -- the 12th time a series race was won by a driver leading only one lap. He has only five career laps led.
• The 0.014-second margin of victory tied the October 2007 Talladega race for the seventh closest in series history.
• Eddie Sharp Racing posted its second series win -- both coming in 2012.
• Chevrolet posted its 12th win of 2012 and fifth victory at Homestead.
• Kyle Busch (second) earned his third top-2 finish in six races at Homestead. He failed to win a Nationwide Series race for the first time in seven years.
• Joey Coulter (third) posted his best Homestead finish in his second race there, finishing in the top five in both Homestead starts.
• Nelson Piquet Jr. finished fourth for the second straight year at Homestead, his only two starts at the track.
• Miguel Paludo (fifth) had his best Homestead finish in his third start at the track. It was his first top-5 finish at Homestead.
• Ross Chastain (10th) earned his fourth top-10 finish of 2012.
• James Buescher (13th) clinched the 2012 Truck series championship.
-- Racing Resources