Roger Penske believes Brad Keselowski's leadership qualities were pivotal in his team's first NASCAR Sprint Cup title success.
Keselowski took a 15th-place finish in the season finale at Homestead to clinch the crown in only his third full year at Cup level.
The 28-year-old assumed lead driver status this year after Penske parted ways with former champion Kurt Busch at the end of 2011.
"He's a great leader on our team," said Penske. "Obviously, I remember he said, 'I'm not helping Kurt Busch enough,' meaning he wasn't good enough at that point. But when he took over the leadership of the team, I said to him, 'You're going to be the leader of this team,' and I think that you've seen what's happened.
"He hasn't missed a step. He's galvanised the team from the standpoint of leadership with [crew chief] Paul [Wolfe] and the whole team, and I think never does he miss a day coming in the shop, putting his arm around the guys, and that makes a big difference. You can be a big shot, but you've got to get down on the ground and work with the guys that are doing all this work day in and day out.
"For me this is what I love, taking people within an organisation and seeing them flourish, and he certainly has."
Ultra-successful IndyCar team boss Penske has been chasing a NASCAR title for almost 40 years. The squad came closest with Rusty Wallace, who finished runner-up to Dale Earnhardt in 1993.
"It's a goal that I wanted to achieve, and I tried hard," Penske said. "We were close in '93 with Rusty finishing second and then third in '94. That's a long time ago. The competition has got tougher, and I think that on any one weekend there are 10 or 15 cars that can win.
"We've built a special team here, and I'm proud to be the leader. When I can be part of that group and then say we're at the top of the sport in 2012, it's a goal I'm sure everybody wants. It's where they want to be."