Vitals: 1st in the points standings. 5 wins, 13 top 5s, 23 top 10s. 1 DNF.
Moment to remember: Duh.
We're also going to choose a race win though, and for that, we've got many options. But let's go with Brad Keselowski's victory at Talladega in the spring, one that saw him defy conventional wisdom as he and Kyle Busch headed towards the checkered flag.
That conventional wisdom said that Busch, who was on Keselowski's bumper as the back half of a two-car tandem out in front of the field, would have the upper hand. He would have the momentum whenever he decided to pull out of line and would be the first to cross the finish line.
[Slideshow: Top 5 NASCAR stories of 2012]
Not so, said Keselowski. While the duo was in turn three, Keselowski darted from the high line towards the low line very quickly. By the time Busch reacted to Keselowski's move, contact between the two cars was already broken. Busch couldn't get back to Keselowski's bumper.
Moment to forget: Keselowski and electronic fuel injection, which was introduced into the Sprint Cup Series this year, haven't always been on the best of terms. Heck, Keselowski was even fined for talking about it in 2011.
So maybe Keselowski's early season EFI issues were a case of the EFI gods getting back at him. At Phoenix, his car burped, but he still finished fifth. (That's the race that Tony Stewart lost the lead because of EFI issues) And then at Las Vegas, Keselowski had a contending car, but finished eight laps off the pace because his car couldn't get going after a restart even though there was fuel still in the tank.
After Vegas, Keselowski was 22nd in the points standings. But he won a week later at Bristol and vaulted all the way back up to 14th.
The wrap: Yeah, we were deprived of a potentially epic championship battle over the final two races thanks to Jimmie Johnson's troubles, but that doesn't make Keselowski's accomplishment any less worthy. Head-to-head, he and Johnson each took four of the first eight Chase races, including two wins apiece.
Then when Johnson had those troubles, Keselowski pounced, finishing 6th amidst the carnage at Phoenix and a comfortable 15th when he knew he could safely top off for fuel at Homestead. Plus, Keselowski avoided the detrimental finish that can doom so many drivers in the Chase, as that 15th at Homestead ended up being his worst finish of the season.
Keselowski and company played the Chase to perfection, but in reality they just continued a run that ended up lasting the final 20 races of the season. In the Chase, Keselowski scored 391 points over 10 races, which is an average finish of fifth with no laps led. In the 10 races before the Chase, Keselowski scored 378 points, just one position lower when you average it out. Had Keselowski not been caught up in a crash at the Bristol night race, the track where he scored his first win of the season, that 10 race segment could have been better than his Chase.
So yeah, it was a pretty remarkable 2012 for Brad Keselowski. Congrats, champ.
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