HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Here’s a tweet for Brad Keselowski: NASCAR champion. Roger Penske must like the sound of that, too.
The kid who stole the show at the season-opening Daytona 500 ended the year under the biggest spotlight of them all Sunday, beating five-time champion Jimmie Johnson to deliver the first Sprint Cup championship to Penske Racing. His first act as champion? Sending a tweet, of course, from inside his car: ‘‘We did it!’’ with a picture of the celebration waiting for him.
‘‘Always, throughout my life I’ve been told I’m not big enough, not fast enough, not strong enough, and I don’t have what it takes,’’ Keselowski said from the championship stage. ‘‘I’ve used that as a chip on my shoulder to carry me through my whole career. It took until this year for me to realize that that was right, man, they were right. I’m not big enough, fast enough, strong enough. No person is. Only a team can do that.’’
So, with the Penske organization behind him, he delivered a trophy that had eluded “The Captain’’ since his 1972 NASCAR debut. Although his motorsports organization is considered the gold standard of open-wheel racing — 15 Indianapolis 500 wins — and his empire has made Penske one of the most successful businessmen in America, his NASCAR team has always been just average.
Then came Keselowski, the blue collar, Twitter-loving, Michigan native who visited Penske in 2008 convinced the NASCAR team could win, too.
Four years later, they hoisted the Sprint Cup trophy together at Homestead-Miami Speedway following Keselowski’s 15th-place finish Sunday.
‘‘It’s all about the people in our organization and obviously Brad coming on board three years ago, and we set a plan and we stuck to it,’’ the 75-year-old Penske said.
Keselowski needed 125 starts to win his first championship, the fewest starts since four-time champion Jeff Gordon won his first title in 93 starts in 1995.
Gordon, who avoided suspension but was fined $100,000 by NASCAR for intentionally wrecking Clint Bowyer last week at Phoenix, overcame the controversy to win the race in a 20th anniversary celebration for sponsor Dupont and Hendrick Motorsports. Who did Gordon beat? Bowyer, of course.
And Bowyer’s second-place finish moved him to a career-best second in the final standings. Third-place went to Ryan Newman.
Keselowski started the race up 20 points on Johnson, who blew a tire and crashed last week at Phoenix to give Keselowski a nice cushion and needing only to finish 15th or higher in the finale to wrap up his first championship.
Johnson was leading late, but he broke a rear end gear in his Chevrolet and went to the garage with 40 laps to go, essentially clinching the championship for Keselowski. ‘‘It all unraveled pretty quick,’’ Johnson conceded.
The win is the first for Dodge since Richard Petty’s Cup title in 1975, and comes as the manufacturer is leaving NASCAR. Penske announced this season it was moving to Ford next year, and it led to Dodge’s decision to pull out.