Brad Keselowski believes delivering Penske Racing's first NASCAR Sprint Cup title makes his championship even more special.
Keselowski had made his Cup debut with powerhouse team Hendrick, which now boasts 10 championship wins between Jeff Gordon, Terry Labonte and Jimmie Johnson, in 2008. But he believes winning the title with Penske Racing is a bigger accomplishment than what winning it with Hendrick could have been.
Despite its illustrious run of success in IndyCar and elsewhere in motorsport, Roger Penske's team had not achieved a NASCAR title prior to Keselowski's 2012 triumph.
"Obviously, I was in that whole Hendrick mix in 2008 and '09, and winning it for Roger is much sweeter than that ever could have been because I know this is an accomplishment nobody else has ever done," said Keselowski.
The new champion praised his crew, led by Paul Wolfe, for helping build the No. 2 team into a championship-caliber contender.
"What I take pride in is the group of guys who joined Penske Racing in 2010, starting with Paul, and I look at the car chief Jerry Kelly, I look at a guy like Brian Wilson, who's my head engineer, whose career was really on the ropes before 2010," said Keselowski. "And I look at those three people as being three of the key players. I don't know where we'd have been apart. I can't imagine we would have been this successful. Maybe I'm wrong.
"Obviously, I look at RP as being a piece of that as well. Doing something that nobody else has ever done with Roger, which is something very special."
The Penske driver finished the season finale in 15th place, which was the least he needed to be crowned champion had rival Jimmie Johnson won and led the most laps. With his rival's troubles, which included a penalty for a loose lug-nut and a transmission failure, Keselowski was able to clinch the title before the race finished. He was glad Wolfe had still urged him to get 15th place, particularly as Johnson had looked capable of winning before his dramas.
"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. So thanks, Paul, for doing that," said Keselowski.
"But there were some doubts at that moment when that whole cycle was going through, and you just don't know who's on what strategy. I don't know – I'm driving a car, and I'm listening to them, and I can hear their voice and their voice wasn't real confident, I can tell you that."
Keselowski became the first driver born in the 1980s to claim the Cup title, and also delivered Dodge's first championship since 1975, just as the brand ceases its involvement in NASCAR following Penske's decision to switch to Ford for 2013.