NASCAR: The New Season Figures to be Newer Than Usual
For five years, Jimmie Johnson ruled the Sprint Cup Series. He didn’t go away in 2011-12, but he didn’t win any championships, either.
Tony Stewart won his third championship — and first in six years — in 2011, and his razor-sharp duel with Carl Edwards provided the 10-race Chase with its all-time classic, but Stewart was a throwback, and as many were quick to point out, over seven seasons, the sport had only two champions, Johnson (2006-07-08-09-10) and Stewart (2005, ’11).
In a span of three years, NASCAR has produced an unprecedented achievement — Johnson’s fifth straight title — a memorable championship by one of the sport’s more popular stars (Stewart), and the emergence of a new and unexpected superstar.
Next, all must adjust to changes because a new car — Generation 6, or G6 — will debut, providing fans with three makes — Chevy, Ford and Toyota — that are more distinct than the largely generic models used for most of six seasons.
Another change, of course, is the departure of Dodge, which bowed out in spite of winning a championship in its final year.
Keselowski and Penske Racing will switch to Ford next season. Perhaps, given that all the cars are changing, it’s a good time. Keselowski has a new teammate in Joey Logano, who won twice in four full seasons with Joe Gibbs’ Toyota powerhouse.
The champion is undaunted.
“I feel like this team … can do anything we set our mind to if we work together like we have over the last few years. I really do,” Keselowski said, “and I just feel so fortunate to be where I’m at right now in life and with racing, to have guys like this around me, because you’re a product of who you surround yourself by, and I’m surrounded by the best.”
Perhaps another championship is within Keselowski’s grasp, but the competition most definitely isn’t going away.
Monte Dutton covers motorsports for The Gaston (N.C.) Gazette. E-mail Monte at email@example.com.
(c) 2012 King Features Synd., Inc.