When James ‘Buster’ Douglas ditched heavyweight champion Mike Tyson for a knockout victory in 1990, it was widely regarded as the biggest upheaval in the history of the sport. Is still. In 2012, Brad Keselowski, a baby-faced driver looking to make a name for himself in the NASCAR world, pushed the most accomplished driver of his time back to Jimmie Johnson to win his first Cup Series championship.

While Keselowski’s victory over Johnson was mind-blowing, Sports Illustrated went further, claiming that “the 2012 Sprint Cup title was the culmination of a season that was the racing equivalent of Buster Douglas sending Mike Tyson s ‘spread on the canvas “.

Brad Keselowski was confident heading into the last race of this 2012 season

US President Barack Obama (right) chats with Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski, Penske Racing # 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion driver, in the driveway of the White House on April 16, 2013, in Washington, DC . (Photo by Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

There was a lot at stake at Homestead-Miami Speedway at the end of 2012. Johnson found himself behind Keselowski by 20 points in the standings heading into the final race of the season. Johnson didn’t win the championship the year before, but the previous five seasons the titles were all his. He was dominant, winning the NASCAR Cup Series championship every year from 2006 to 2010. Dale Earnhardt Jr. called Johnson’s title streak the greatest achievement in NASCAR history.

Keselowski didn’t care. He was young. Maybe he didn’t quite grasp the concept of Johnson’s greatness at this particular moment. The 28-year-old from Michigan entered this latest race with a purpose.

“I’ve spent my whole life preparing for this moment,” Keselowski told Sports Illustrated three days before this last race. “I was on the verge of never being successful as a pilot. But now that I’m here, I absolutely won’t back down from Jimmie.

Brad Keselowski fended off Jimmie Johnson for surprise win

Keselowski was in his third Cup Series season. Although he was born into a family of runners, he had to beg for a team to try their luck. This finally happened in 2008 when JR Motorsports recruited him. He ended his first Nationwide Series season with over $ 2 million in earnings.

Johnson was the seasoned vet. He had already won five of his seven Cup Series titles. Back then, he was the favorite every year after writing one of NASCAR’s top resumes.

None of this mattered to Keselowski. With this 20-point lead before the final race, he had to finish in 15th place or better to win his first title. For the full 400 miles he was conservative, making sure to stay clear of any kind of danger.

Johnson had a chance to make a late push, but his Chevrolet’s rear axle snapped, sending him to 36th place. Keselowski finished 15th, winning his first title and achieving one of the biggest upheavals in history.

Keselowski has come a long way in his piloting career

For a guy who used to dump in dumpsters, Keselowski has come a long way. Since 2010 he has driven full time for the Penske team in the Cup Series, racking up 34 of his 35 Cup Series wins. Keselowski recently announced that he will join Roush Fenway Racing in 2022 as a driver with a minority stake in the organization.

“This presents an opportunity to continue my success on the right track with a strong team and long term commitment, but also to delve into my passion for team ownership where I know I can be an asset for the future. of the team, ”Keselowski said. in a statement, according to NASCAR. “I am optimistic about what Jack (Roush), John (Henry) and I can accomplish together, especially with a new era for our sport on the horizon (with the Next Gen car). Our goal is to win races and compete for championships at the highest level of NASCAR, and we plan to do so. “

When he joins his new team, it will be 10 years since he managed the Buster Douglas upheaval. In 2012, Keselowski not only shocked the motorsport world, but also showed that he can predict the future.

“This is just the start,” Keselowski said at the time. “I’ll be here for a long time. “

He wasn’t kidding.

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