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Behind the Wheel: A fun year representing Nationwide as its champ

November 17, 2011, Brad Keselowski, Special to NASCAR.COM,

This is my last week as the Nationwide Series champion. On one hand it seems like this year has flown by. I can remember being on stage giving my speech at the banquet like it was yesterday. Going to Daytona in February seems like only a minute ago. But on the other hand, when you think about everything that has happened this year and how tired you are, it definitely seems like it has been one [calendar] year.

We still don't know who the new champion will be. Before Elliott's [Sadler] incident at Phoenix, it looked like we were going to go to Homestead with a tight-knit battle on our hands. While anything can happen, it is definitely Ricky's [Stenhouse Jr.] championship to lose now. What a great fight it would have been. The up-and-comer versus the veteran. Two of the good guys in the sport going after their first title. Whoever is the champion, I know they will represent the series with class and respect to those that came before them.

Once a champion ...

Brad has won four races in each of the past three Nationwide Series seasons, including six during his 2010 championship year.

Championships are very special and winning the 2010 Nationwide Series title will definitely go down as one of the highlights of my racing career. It was the culmination of a dream. The fact that it was the first NASCAR championship for Penske Racing just adds another layer to it. I think we've built a very formidable Nationwide Series team at Penske Racing over the last couple of years. I think we showed that last weekend at Phoenix where Sam [Hornish Jr.] and I ran 1-2. It's a series that really means a lot to me. That's why I will always race, though maybe not full time, in the Nationwide Series and I was proud to represent it as its champion this year. With the continued support of Discount Tire, Dodge and Alliance Truck Parts, I know we can continue to win races in the coming years.

* Final Laps: Hornish, Keselowski run 1-2 at Phoenix

In the Cup Series, however, we have a South Florida duel brewing. Three points separate Tony [Stewart] and Carl [Edwards]. Both have very fast cars and both know how to win at Homestead-Miami Speedway. While I wish we were right there in the middle of it with our Miller Lite Dodge -- I think we will be in the coming years -- I can't wait to see how it unfolds this weekend. I really didn't think Carl could win without playing offense. He's going to have to run hard this weekend because that's exactly what Tony will do.

And Homestead provides a great place to battle it out. One of the coolest things about that track is just how wide it is. I think it's really a racy track. I like how you can run the top, middle and bottom. It's kind of got a Michigan feel, so to speak, and it's a good race. You want a venue like that to settle the championship, a place where it's all in the drivers' hands and up to them to get the job done.

It's been an amazing Cup Series season. We are beginning to fulfill the potential of Penske Racing. The potential that I knew was sitting there just below the surface. That's why I made the move over here at the end of 2009. They were this sleeping giant that was ready to resurface. We have great funding and support with Miller Lite, Shell/Pennzoil and Dodge. Our shop is full of outstanding crew chiefs, engineers and mechanics that build fast machines. With the success that we had this year, it changes the goal and expectations for 2012. Now we want to fire out of the box strong next season, compete for wins early, and show everyone that we are going to be a legitimate team for years to come. I'll take a little time to myself over the offseason, but I'm already excited about going to Daytona next year.

This week's fan question comes from Brian in Alabama. He wants to know what teams do in the offseason to prepare for the next season.

Thanks for the question, Brian. Actually, preparation for next season begins long before the checkered flag falls this weekend at Homestead. NASCAR teams work well in advance of every race as it is, but even more so when we are getting ready for the biggest race of the season, the Daytona 500, as our first race. The biggest thing the team can do during the month of December to get ready for 2012 is to rest and recharge. It's a long season that takes its toll on everyone. Then we'll start doing some testing in January and by the time February rolls around we will be ready to hit the ground running in pursuit of Penske Racing's first Cup Series championship.

That's it for this season. I've really enjoyed writing this piece. Hopefully most of you have enjoyed reading it. I hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. See you in 2012.

The opinions expressed are solely those of Brad Keselowski. Follow him on Twitter at

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Watch highlights of Brad's 2011 Cup season: