Brad Keselowski will officially be crowned the 2012 Sprint Cup Series champion during the season-ending banquet Friday night at the Wynn Las Vegas.
It took Keselowski much longer than just the three-plus full-time seasons he has competed in the Cup series to reach this goal.
In fact, his journey to the top of NASCAR didn’t begin in NASCAR at all. Instead, it began with a wrench in his hand rather than a steering wheel and the rest, as they say, is history.
As Keselowski gets ready to celebrate his championship season, we take a look at 10 pivotal moments in his career so far.
10. Turning the wheel instead of the wrench
Having mostly worked for his family’s race team, K Automotive, Keselowski begins his driving career in 1998 competing in the Senior Honda 120 Quarter Midget division.
9. April 17, 2004 — Truck race at Martinsville
Keselowski makes his first career NASCAR start, qualifying 26th and finishing 33rd in the No. 29 Ford owned by his father, Bob.
8. July 14, 2007 — debut with JR Motorsports
Keselowski had made the most of his sub-par equipment and that drew the attention of Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was looking for a new driver for his Nationwide Series team. Keselowski replaced Shane Huffman.
7. June 7, 2008 — first NASCAR victory
In his first full season with JR Motorsports, Keselowski finds Victory Lane for the first time in Nashville. The win is just the second ever for JRM.
6. Nov. 2, 2008 — first Cup start
At Texas, Keselowski makes his Cup debut, driving the No. 25 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. He started 37th and finished 19th. Weeks later, he finished 23rd in his second start in Homestead, Fla.
5. April 25, 2009 — first Cup win
Driving a partial Cup schedule for owner James Finch, Keselowski wins his first race in his fifth series start at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. The race ends with Keselowski in Victory Lane, Carl Edwards’ car in the fence and Ryan Newman with yet another wrecked superspeedway car.
4. Sept. 1, 2009 — switch to Penske
With no Cup ride available at Hendrick, Keselowski signs with Penske Racing to run full-time Cup and Nationwide schedules beginning in 2010.
3. Nov. 6, 2010 — Nationwide Series title
Keselowski finishes third at Texas and clinches the 2010 Nationwide Series championship with two races left in the season. It’s the first NASCAR title for Keselowski and for Penske.
2. Sept. 16, 2012 — win at Chicagoland
Beginning just his second Chase, Keselowski and crew chief Paul Wolfe earn an impressive win in the Chase opener on a 1.5-mile track. The victory is key to a title run as five of the 10 Chase races are run on similar tracks.
1. Nov. 18, 2012 Keselowski claims title at Homestead
Keselowski’s only other competition, Jimmie Johnson, has an uncharacteristically bad race with a missing lugnut on a pit stop and mechanical problems that ultimately send him to the garage. Keselowski’s 15th place finish is far more than enough to earn him his first Cup series championship and the first for Penske, who has fielded entries in 29 Cup seasons.