HOMESTEAD, Fla. —It took Brad Keselowski nearly 15 minutes to climb out of his No. 2 Dodge on Sunday night after winning the Sprint Cup Series championship.
He already had done a long burnout along the frontstretch of Homestead-Miami Speedway that melted his rear tires.
He waved an American flag, as well as a flag that proclaimed a championship that was clinched with a 15th-place finish in the Ford EcoBoost 400.
Even has crewmen from Penske Racing poked inside the car, he stayed in the car with seatbelts fastened and his helmet on.
All to absorb the moment.
But once he joined in the celebration, he enjoyed the benefits of being sponsored by Miller Lite beer.
“I got a buzz going,” he yelled from Victory Lane. “I’ve been drinking a little bit here.”
By the time Keselowski was finished with his interviews, he was drenched. It might have taken him a while to get the party started, but once he got it going, he made it last all night long.
Johnson’s mechanical failure put a final twist in a bizarre turn of events in the season-finale. Keselowski ran out of gas under green with 61 laps remaining to drop back to 24th place, one lap down.
Moments later Johnson was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop to tighten a loose lug nut.
That dropped him back to 25th place, a lap down.
The biggest blow came seven laps after that when Johnson pulled left down the backstretch with smoke pouring from under his car. His team replaced a burned rear gear, but any hopes of a sixth championship in seven years were crushed.
All Keselowski had to do was quietly ride out the final 40 laps to win his first Sprint Cup Series title, and the first for car owner Roger Penske.
Jeff Gordon picked up the victory in the finale.
NASCAR said Keselowski’s official clinching came with 21 laps remaining.
“We find a way. There’s going to be adversity in a season,” Keselowski said. “That’s racing. My team, they find a way. They don’t surrender.
“I’m 6-foot tall, 150 pounds. I ain’t a big guy. I’m not strong. I haven’t been the fastest guy; I haven’t been the smoothest guy. As life’s gone on, I’ve learned I’m not perfect. But I’ve been working to work hard at it.”
The Rochester Hills, Mich., native had a support group from the Detroit area. Kid Rock was there, saying he was “Detroit to the bone.” So was former Michigan wide receiver Desmond Howard.
It also gave Dodge a fitting way to leave the sport. As soon as Keselowski’s No. 2 Dodge was pushed out of Victory Lane, it will be replaced by Ford next year. Dodge announced at mid-season it was leaving NASCAR next year after Penske said he was switching manufacturers.
Johnson’s problems were costly. Not only did it keep him from winning the championship, it dropped him to third behind Clint Bowyer in the final standings.
Jeff Gordon won the race. He said Keselowski will be popular among younger fans -- especially ones who use social networking.
“I’ve already picked up 6,000 new followers [on Twitter],” he said.