The NASCAR Sprint Cup season is down to the battle of two drivers and two races. The drivers could hardly be more different with one fighting for a first title and the other looking to wrap up a sixth.
Brad Keselowski, 28, is brash, but smart when it comes to contending for wins. He says what he thinks and rolls out of the ideal corporate image a bit more than most drivers.
Keselowski drove a couple Cup races for various teams in 2008, a partial schedule in 2009 and his first full season at NASCAR's top level for Roger Penske in 2010.
The driver of the Blue Deuce has nine wins in the Cup series. He won a NASCAR Nationwide title for Penske Racing in 2010 with his present Cup crew chief Paul Wolfe.
Keselowski now finds himself going against the formidable five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, Jimmie Johnson.
"Bad Brad" is confident in his ability and of his team's strength, but in a battle against Johnson, it may be a bit like he is bringing a knife to a gunfight as he battles the Hendrick Motorsports superstar.
Johnson, like many of the sport's premier drivers, is polarizing. His persona is one of calm confidence, his driving is smooth, his image is corporate and he is a family man with a beautiful wife and daughter.
Unlike great drivers of the past, such as Dale Earnhardt, he is not one to trash talk or make daring moves on the track that result in knocking out competitors.
Johnson's driving style, like his personality, is boring to those who are not his fans. His dominance in the sport tends to drive fans away rather than draw them in.
His greatness as a driver still has not been realized by many who follow the sport. Perhaps it never will be until his days as a driver are over. People will then look back at his six or more titles with respect.
For now NASCAR could face a conundrum with the odds favoring that Johnson will capture his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup championship, and the fans will yawn if they are still watching.
By the same token, a sixth Cup title brings a great deal of media attention to the sport of NASCAR whether the bulk of the fans like it or not.
With viewership and attendance declining in NASCAR, fans are looking for a hero. They want personalities and rivalries that spice up the racing.
Keselowski could be the giant-killer that captures his first Cup championship in a tough rivalry with one of the top drivers in NASCAR history.
Though Keselowski is young with great social media skills in addition to his talent behind the wheel, he does not yet have a strong fanbase. Some find his personality abrasive.
Should Johnson capture the 2012 championship, his critics will continue with banter about his team cheating, having all the advantages with HMS and being a favorite of those who rule NASCAR.
With the season down to a race at Phoenix and the finale at Homestead, we have to wonder if "Bad Brad" can rally fans for the 2013 season or what effect his failure to capture the title will have on NASCAR.
What do you think?
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