CHARLOTTE, NC (WFXG) - Being the defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion is a tough assignment. There are many requirements that take you away from your race team that you didn't have to contend with the previous year. Combine that with not winning a race and you have a very frustrated Champion.
That frustration was relieved a bit under the stars at Charlotte Motor Speedway Saturday night as Brad Keselowski outran Kasey Kahne and Matt Kenseth over the last few laps to gain his first victory of the 2013 season.
Team owner Roger Penske knew that it was just a matter of time before his driver returned to victory lane.
"At the end of the day we haven't been to victory circle, and I think for Brad he was concerned. We all were, "said the relieved team owner after the race. "But at the end of the day we knew he was the guy that gave us a championship last year, and every driver in our stable now has won a race this year."
It has been a humbling year for the defending champion but he knew that he would return to the winner's circle in due time.
"You know, the perception is, and rightfully so, that the guys in the Chase are the cream of the crop, and that's how obviously they would make it in the Chase, and they should win races and probably sweep the Chase," commented Keselowski on his team. "We've had what we need to be a championship team. We just haven't put them all together. All the pieces haven't come together on the nights that count, and they for the most part did tonight."
As relived as he was to get the monkey off his back, Keselowski was more thankful to get his team some recognition in front of the home town crowd.
"Those guys spend a lot of time away from their friends and family and make sacrifices to essentially make me a hero, and that's not something that's lost on me," continued Keselowski. "So when they have the opportunity to come to Charlotte and bring their family and friends and kind of showcase what they do and then you combine that with success, I think it really validates to them some of those sacrifices they made."
The win isn't going to put Keselowski and his team any closer to winning a repeat championship but it sure does a lot to set them up mentally for a return to a championship contending team for 2014.