Homestead, FL, United States (4E Sports) – Brad Keselowski finished 15th in Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway but it was enough to clinch his first Sprint Cup championship.
Keselowksi captured the title with a 39-point margin over Clint Bowyer and 40 points ahead of Jimmie Johnson, who dropped to third in the standings after a 36th-place finish.
The Cup championship was the first for team owner Roger Penske, and the first since 1975 for car maker Dodge, which is leaving Cup racing at the end of the season.
“It means the world — it really does,” Keselowski said. “I’ve got the best team in racing, and I’m just so thrilled to be a part of it. From the top down, Roger Penske, crew chief Paul Wolfe, everybody else, the crew guys and my family — that means so much.”
Keselowski entered Sunday’s race with a 20-point lead over Johnson, who strengthened his chance early in the competition with aggressive pit strategy.
However, thing fell apart for Johnson after the 200-lap mark. On Lap 214, Johnson pulled away from his stall with a loose lug nut, and NASCAR mandated another stop to correct the error.
On Lap 226, Johnson’s car suffered a drive line problem and failed to continue with the race.
“Pretty heartbreaking,” Johnson said moments after Keselowski crossed the finish line 15th to clinch the title. “We were doing what we needed to do, certainly in a position to put a lot of pressure on the 2 car. But that’s racing.”
Meanwhile, Jeff Gordon ruled the event by crossing the finish line 1.028 seconds ahead of Bowyer for his second win this year and his 87th career crown, most among active drivers and third-most all-time behind Richard Petty (200) and David Pearson (105).
The victory was Gordon’s first at Homestead and the first for Hendrick Motorsports.
“This is just huge,” said Gordon, who intentionally wrecked Bowyer last Sunday at Phoenix and drew a $100,000 fine and 25-point penalty for his actions. “Man, it’s been an emotional week and a hard one — one of the hardest ones I’ve ever gone through, just looking back on my decision.”
“What an unbelievable week. There were so many ups and downs this week, and to be able to end in Victory Lane with just an awesome team effort was just awesome… This is the way you want to win a race, by just going to battle with them and having a good race car and playing it all out really smart,” Gordon added.