Magical. Simply and absolutely magical.
How else would you describe the journey of 28-year-old Brad Keselowski, a second-generation stock car talent, who went from nearly losing everything vital in life back in 2006 to sitting on the throne as the reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion in 2012?
Of course, the defending series winner didn't do it all alone, but he certainly had the mettle and willpower to overcome so many obstacles that could've ended his quest in racing long before the wheels started turning - for the better. That's what makes his story so relatable to any hard working individual whose success is earned, not given to them.
Despite being young, bold, and somewhat cocky, it's his old school mentality as a gritty, stone cold driver that sets him apart from his contemporaries. His meteoric rise to the top is akin to Jeff Gordon's, who went from a nobody to upstart, an upstart to contender, a contender to winner, and a winner to champion in just three years.
There's that toughness of a Dale Earnhardt and Rusty Wallace as well, who are often mentioned amongst some of the older fans as some of the sport's toughest, most successful drivers ever. Outspoken and aggressive, Keselowski speaks with his heart and while it may perturb some, it strikes a chord with the fans who've longed for an animated, likeable racer for a long time.
Everything seemed to go right for Keselowski in 2012 - at least after they worked out their issues with EFI, which dug them in an early hole in the first several races. Once those were rectified, it was as if the afterburners on the No. 2 Miller Lite car were on, nabbing five wins, 13 top-fives, and 23 top-10 finishes en route to the 2012 Cup title.
Not only was it Keselowski's first title, but unbelievably, it was car owner Roger Penske's first Cup trophy after 29 years of chasing his stock car dreams. Considering how Penske had the likes of Rusty Wallace, Kurt Busch, and Ryan Newman as his drivers over the past few decades and falling short of the title, it speaks volumes as to how tough this sport is and how luck and skills are needed to win it all in NASCAR.
All of last year's success happened with the Dodge camp, which has since left the sport following the departure of its only major racing team - Penske Racing. Defecting from the Mopar brand and returning back to the Ford collective, the No. 2 team has essentially become a satellite effort of the Roush-Fenway Racing unit. After years of racing with their own equipment and motor, they'll utilize Roush-Yates engines starting in 2013.
Could that help them or hurt them in terms of their championship chances this year?
Time will tell but for them to bolt from what has worked over the years and to venture into the unknown (in terms of their motors), it's not exactly risky, but Penske's equipment has been top notch for some time. Maybe it's a sign of the times, but it essentially makes this genuine team into one that's really a Roush-Fenway car and one has to wonder where the No. 2 team (as well as the No. 22 team) will be on with the pecking order of the best equipment/motor from Roush-Yates.
Then again, it could be a brilliant combination with the innovative technological thinkings of both Doug Yates and Jack Roush added to the smart and business-oriented nature of Roger Penske and his associates. Translation: Yea, it's most likely going to work out.
As stout and consistent as the No. 2 team will fare, which is led by crew chief Paul Wolfe (a former NASCAR Nationwide Series racer), they'll be good but just a bit short of the title. When one considers how Jimmie Johnson had as many wins as Keselowski last year but fell short because of a crash at Phoenix and equipment issues at Homestead-Miami, it just means that their challengers will be that much better.
That said, BK will definitely have plenty of times to say it's "Miller Time" and he'll probably gain more followers than the amount of money we'll make in a day by year's end. Also, he's probably going to at least be a factor for the title right down to the last events of 2013.
Not bad at all for a kid whose career looked about as over as Sterling Marlin's 2002 Daytona 500 chances. Buckle up and let 'er rip.