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Keselowski collects first Sprint Cup title, secures Rankings' top spot

Homestead Power Rankings

After nine months of racing, covering 10,442 laps at 23 racetracks in 20 states, NASCAR's Sprint Cup season has come to a close. Now comes the hardware season where champion Brad Keselowski, who also finishes No. 1 in the season-ending Power Rankings, will collect accolades and oversized checks in the coming days as a reward for his performance.

Don't worry about a break in the racing action. It's only 51 days until Cup testing at Daytona in January, 88 days until the Shootout at Daytona and 96 days until the Daytona 500. Until then, here's the final Power Rankings of the season.

 
1
Brad Keselowski
2012 wins: 5
2012 Top-10s: 23
Last week's rank: 1
Hail to the champion. He and his team stared down Jimmie Johnson and every other contender to win the title and earn the top spot in the Power Rankings. Although Keselowski placed 15th at Homestead, he finished the season with 17 top-10 finishes in the last 20 races, dating back to his win at Kentucky in late June. The key race, though, was the opening Chase race at Chicago in September. "Once we won Chicago," Keselowski said, "I felt like we could do it. I really did. And I knew that we had the speed."
 
2
Jimmie Johnson
2012 Wins: 5
2012 Top-10s: 24
Last week's rank: 2
He all but started the season in the garage, collected in a second-lap crash in the Daytona 500, and ended the season in the garage when a mechanical issue sidelined him late at Homestead. In between he was a strong championship contender but when he and his team examine this season it will be hard to ignore the final two races. A blown right tire sent him into the wall at Phoenix and a 32nd-place finish, and a pit road penalty, along with the mechanical issues led to a 36th-place finish at Homestead. "We had 80 percent of the Chase that we needed to have," Johnson said. "These championships are special, and it takes ... [a] clean 10 races to win one of these things."
 
3
Kyle Busch
2012 Wins: 1
2012 Top-10s: 20
Last week's rank: 3
Maybe it's good this season is over so fate or whatever force that?s toying with Busch can't find another way to keep him from winning. His fourth-place finish at Homestead marked his sixth top-five finish in the last seven races, but all were without a victory. For the third time in the Chase, Busch led the most laps but also didn't win those races. "I think I've said it the last five weeks...that's our year," Busch said about failing to win again.
 
4
Clint Bowyer
2012 Wins: 3
2012 Top-10s: 23
Last week's rank: 4
In the coming days Bowyer's biggest issue will be what tree stand he'll be in when he goes hunting. For his team, it will be about how to move forward after finishing second in the points and avoid the runner-up curse next season. Since 2004 the runner-up in the points has finished no higher than fourth the following year. Bowyer wasn't worried about that after racing ended at Homestead, saying his points finish was "huge."
 
5
Jeff Gordon
2012 Wins: 2
2012 Top-10s: 18
Last week's rank: 7
Gordon ended his roller-coaster week with a victory just days after he intentionally wrecked Clint Bowyer at Phoenix, and as a result was fined $100,000 and docked 25 points by NASCAR. It's been a challenging season for Gordon and his team; they've had the speed throughout much of the year but couldn't score more than two wins. Ending with a victory eases the pain from this season and should help carry the team through the offseason.
 
6
Kasey Kahne
2012 Wins: 3
2012 Top-10s: 19
Last week's rank: 5
Kahne had a disappointing finish to the season with 21st-place result at Homestead -- his second finish outside the top 20 in the final three races. Still, he showed what he could do in his first year with Hendrick Motorsports and offers promise for next year and beyond.
 
7
Matt Kenseth
2012 Wins: 3
2012 Top-10s: 19
Last week's rank: 6
Kenseth finished 18th in his final race with Roush Fenway Racing. He had two wins and three top-fives in his final seven races but was outside the top 10 in the other four races in that span. He moves to Joe Gibbs Racing for next season , where he'll join Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin.
 
8
Kevin Harvick
2012 Wins: 1
2012 Top-10s: 14
Last week's rank: 9
Harvick showed progress in the last three weeks, finishing ninth, first and eighth to end the season. His biggest issue next season will be how he'll mesh with his team, since it will be his last before he's expected to move to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014.
 
9
Greg Biffle
2012 Wins: 2
2012 Top-10s: 21
Last week's rank: N/A
Biffle's fifth-place finish at Homestead marked his fourth consecutive top-10 finish. After being atop the Power Rankings early in the year, his performance slid and so did his ranking. However, he rallied late to make it back into the rankings.
 
10
Roger Penske
2012 Wins: 5
2012 Top-10s: 27
Last week's rank: N/A
After years of trying, Penske has his first Sprint Cup championship thanks to Brad Keselowski. The trophy case, stuffed with 15 Indianapolis 500 trophies and 12 IndyCar titles, can now make room for a Sprint Cup trophy. Proving champions don't sit still, the team is switching from Dodge to Ford next season and bringing on Joey Logano as a teammate to Keselowski.
 
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