Did Brad Keselowski Win the Sprint Cup, or Did Jimmie Johnson Lose It?

Jim FolsomSenior Analyst IMarch 23, 2017

HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 18:  NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Dodge, makes the number one sign with his finger after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 18, 2012 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Congratulations to the new Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski and the No. 2 team, owned by Roger Penske, who now adds a Sprint Cup title to all of his other championships. This team had a heck of a season, culminating in a good 10-race run though "the Chase."

But one has to wonder if this title was less won by Keselowski and more lost by the No. 48 team and Jimmie Johnson.

Let's go back to the Phoenix race, the next to last race of the season. Johnson, who has won five of the last six championships, seemed to have this one within his grasp. Then, while running by himself, No. 48 inexplicably hit the wall. That was a "whoa" moment. 

A "did-that-just-happen" moment.

What was so shocking about it? It was the championship-losing moment by a five-time champion. It was like Emmitt Smith fumbling on the goal line in the Super Bowl, or Mariano Rivera walking in the tying run with the bases loaded in the World Series.

You don't expect champions to do that.

Later, in Homestead, with Johnson leading the race and keeping pressure on the Keselowski team, he comes in for the last pit stop, and they screw it up by not getting on all the lug nuts. It's the last pit stop of the year, a possible championship is on the line, and the team makes a rookie mistake.

This shows how much goes into winning a championship and how easily one can get away. People appreciate that this team won five in a row, when it is so easy to have a cut tire or miss a lug nut, or go too fast down pit road, at the most inopportune time. But the fact that this team won five in a row makes it all the more surprising that they had this one practically in the bag and let it slip away.

Champions close. When they fail to close, it's big news.

It's nice to see new drivers get championships once in a while. Some may argue another Johnson win would have been bad for the sport. Maybe, maybe not. There's something great about watching records being broken. Even if you weren't rooting for it at the time, you can look back and appreciate it later.

Maybe this will all be forgotten after Johnson's career is over. Did Dale Earnhardt or Richard Petty ever give one away? Probably, but nobody remembers it. They remember the seven championships.

The athletes remember the ones that got away. If Johnson ends his career with six or seven titles, he'll think back on 2012 with a sick feeling.