NASCAR honored its new Sprint Cup Series champions, Brad Keselowski and the No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge team, on Friday night during its annual Sprint Cup Series Awards banquet at the Wynn Las Vegas. It’s the first such honor for both Keselowski and team owner Roger Penske.
During his speech near the close of the banquet, Penske expressed his appreciation for now being a part of an elite club — the club of Sprint Cup champion car owners.
“You can’t buy it,” Penske said. “You can’t get voted in. You have to work for it.”
Meanwhile, the championship driver, while somewhat under the weather, expressed a feeling similar to winning the lottery, likening all who played a role on his championship team to winning lottery tickets.
“You have to buy a lot of lottery tickets to be a winner, and I feel like a lottery winner,” Keselowski said afer receiving his championship ring from NASCAR President Mike Helton.
The other top-10 drivers of 2012 were also recognized at the banquet, including second-place Clint Bowyer, third-place Jimmie Johnson, fourth-place Kasey Kahne, fifth-place Greg Biffle, sixth-place Denny Hamlin, seventh-place Matt Kenseth, eighth-place Kevin Harvick, ninth-place Tony Stewart and 10th-place points finisher Jeff Gordon.
“It’s truly been one of the best years I’ve ever had,” Bowyer said during his speech.
Drivers and team owners weren’t the only ones honored during Friday night’s festivities. Lexington, S.C., attorney Lorri Shealy Unumb was recognized as the second recipient of the Betty Jane France Award for her humanitarian work relating to the fight against autism. Unumb, whose son Ryan suffers with austism, wrote Ryan’s Law to make sure that children from South Carolina receive treatment covered by medical insurance. Unumb has also been instrumental in the creation of the Austism Academy of South Carolina.
Series title sponsor Sprint also handed out four fan-voted awards under the banner of Sprint Fan Voice awards. Gordon received the Hard Charger Award for his race toward the front at Richmond (Va.) International Speedway in September to claim the final spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. The #Did You See That? Award went to Johnson and car owner Rick Hendrick for when Hendrick rode on Johnson’s car to victory lane at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway to celebrate Hendrick Motorsports’ 200th Sprint Cup win.
“He called me on the radio and asked me to pick him up,” Johnson said.
Marcos Ambrose received the Dialed In To Win Award for his victory at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. Stewart and crew chief Steve Addington took the other Sprint Fan Voice Award, the Call of the Race Award, for Stewart’s pit road fake-out prior to winning the rain-shortened race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontanta, Calif.
The banquet was hosted by comedian and game show host Howie Mandell, and entertainment was provided by the cast of The Beatles LOVE, Train, Lifehouse with Natasha Bedingfield and American Idol winner Phillip Phillips.
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR
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