Brad Keselowski celebrates clinching the 2012 NASCAR Cup Series title at Homestead-Miami Speedway. (HHP/Harold Hinson photo)

NASCAR In 2012 — The 75 Years Edition

Editor’s Note: NASCAR is celebrating its 75th anniversary. SPEED SPORT was founded in 1934 and was already on its way to becoming America’s Motorsports Authority when NASCAR was formed. As a result, we will bring you Part 65 of a 75-part series on the history NASCAR.

Brad Keselowski became the 29th different NASCAR Cup Series champion in 2012, winning the title in only his third full-time season at the age of 28.

The first driver from Michigan to win the title, Keselowski also earned the first Cup Series championship for Team Penske in the operations 23rd full season competing in the series.

Keselowski grabbed the point lead for the first time after winning the playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway in September and led the rest of the way, defeating Clint Bowyer by 39 points after the season finale at Homestead Miami Speedway.

Keselowski joined Bobby Labonte as the only drivers to win an Xfinity Series title and a Cup Series crown.

Keselowski and Paul Wolfe are the only driver-crew chief combination to win championships in both the Xfinity and Cup series. It was the fifth Cup Series championship for Dodge, but the company’s first since 1975 when Richard Petty won his sixth title.

poses for a portrait during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion's Awards at the Wynn Las Vegas on November 30, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. | Getty Images
Brad Keselowski and team owner Roger Penske at the 2012 Cup Series banquet. (NASCAR photo)

Ironically, Dodge withdrew from the series at the end of the season.

Keselowski won five races and collected 13 top-five finishes and 23 top-10 results en route to winning the championship. Two of his victories came during the 10-race playoff run.

Bowyer earned three victories, driving a Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing, while Jimmie Johnson finished third — a single point behind Bowyer — in the title chase, while picking up five victories and collecting a series-best 18 top-five finishes and 24 top-10 efforts in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet.

Kasey Kahne won twice for Hendrick Motorsports and was fourth in points, while Greg Biffle also grabbed a pair of victories while bringing his Roush Fenway Ford home fifth.

Denny Hamlin, driving the No. 11 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, led the regular season standings, but ran into bad luck during the second half of the playoffs. Hamlin won five races, including one during the playoffs, but wound up sixth in the standings.

Matt Kenseth won three times for Roush Fenway Racing, including the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona Int’l Speedway, and finished seventh in the standings.

Tony Stewart won three times and Jeff Gordon triumphed twice, including the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Single winners were Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman, Joey Logano and Marcos Ambrose

For the first time in race history, the Daytona 500 was postponed from its scheduled date due to weather, to Monday evening. The first 500 run in primetime featured a lengthy red flag for track repairs after a bizarre accident involving a jet dryer and Juan Pablo Montoya, with Kenseth winning in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

It was the first time since 2004 that the championship was won by someone other than Stewart or Johnson.

Stephen Leicht was named Cup Series Rookie of the Year.

It was the final season that the fifth-generation cars (also known as the Car of Tomorrow), which debuted 2007, were used in competition. The Generation 6 cars were introduced for the 2013 season.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. earned his second consecutive NASCAR Xfinity Series championship and James Buescher donned the Truck Series crown.