Brad Keselowski shook up the NASCAR Sprint Cup scene when he managed to hold back veteran driver Jimmie Johnson and win his first Sprint Cup Championship in 2012.
He was an underdog that held back a juggernaut of a driver.
When the 2013 season starts, though, will Brad still be considered an underdog?
What are the chances the reigning champions will repeat his success?
With Dodge making an exit from NASCAR, will Keselowski be as successful behind a Ford? And how will the new Gen-6 model impact him next season?
Clearly, Brad Keselowski is one driver everyone will be watching when the 2013 season starts. He demonstrated fantastic driving in The Chase, and along with the crew behind the Blue Deuce, he managed to hold back the competition.
The 2013 season will be much different for the defending champion, but if he can manage to adjust to the new Gen-6 car, and the new Ford manufacturer behind Penske Racing, Keselowski has a great chance of repeating his 2012 season success.
Moving On With Ford
One of the biggest issues which will play a major role in Keselowski's chances of repeating his championship season has to deal with the switch at Penske.
If Penske can manage to successfully switch to Ford by getting caught up technology-wise, then Keselowksi just needs to focus on driving in the 2013 season.
If Penske isn't as caught up as, say, Roush-Fenway, Brad's chances of repeating will diminish greatly.
"Some of that stuff is a work in progress," Keselowski was quoted as saying by Terry Blount over at ESPN.com. "I think, so far, we all agree to the Ford approach of 'One Ford,' where we are going to share what we can where it's practical to do so."
How much information will be shared between the different teams, though? Of course the No. 22 and No. 2 team will be working together, but how cooperative will other organizations like Roush-Fenway be?
In order for Keselowski to have any chance to repeat as the Sprint Cup champion, Penske will need to be on the same level as all of the other Ford teams in NASCAR.
Will Gen-6 Hurt or Help?
Switching manufacturers and trying to emulate the success of the 2012 season will be hard enough for Keselowski. He also has to deal with a completely new car.
All of the drivers in NASCAR still need to get use to the Gen-6 model of car, but it's still unclear if the Gen-6 will hurt or help Keselowski in the upcoming season.
"Right now, it's a beautiful car and that's it," Keselowski was quoted as saying by Jeff Gluck of USA Today.
"Until it gets on the track and shows the result our fans can connect to as far as the level of competition, it's just a beautiful car. And you know what? Part of that is what's going to make the start of the year exciting. We're all going to learn together."
The new model of car seems filled with potential, but will some drivers take to it better than others?
And while Keselowski has tested in the new Gen-6 Ford model of the Blue Deuce, no one can say for certain how early testing will translate in the full season.
Already at the Top
Keselowski has reached the height of NASCAR by winning his first championship. As he gets set to try to do it again, though, he will have some help.
Brad has a new teammate in Joey Logano this season and plans to use Logano to push himself even harder.
"You have to understand the goal of bringing Joey Logano to Penske Racing," Keselowski was quoted as saying by David Newton via ESPN.com. "The goal is to have two cars that can run for a championship. I'm hoping he can push me to be better."
"I don't want to get stagnant. I've reached the highest pinnacle you can reach in this sport and don't want to fall off it."
Keselowski clearly has the right attitude moving forward into the new season. Instead of just worrying about staying at the top of the highest level of NASCAR, he is looking to become even better than he was last year.
If Logano can help him, Brad's chances of winning another championship look good.
No Easy Feat
Winning back-to-back championships isn't as easy as it sounds. And while Keselowski has clearly emerged as a top driver, only Jimmie Johnson has managed to win back-to-back championships in the last 14 seasons.
Brad did manage to hold back Johnson to win his first championship, so if anyone in the sport could pull off two consecutive wins, Keselowski seems to be the one who could do it.
If Penske Racing can successfully adjust to Ford, and if Keselowski himself manages to adjust to the new Gen-6 model of car, Brad is a solid pick to win the championship.
Hopefully, with added help from teammate Joey Logano, Keselowski can improve and come back this season even stronger than last year.
Winning back-to-back titles is no easy feat, but if anyone in the sport can do it right now, Brad Keselowski is the best bet.