Is Brad Keselowski a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series One-Hit Wonder?

Paul Carreau@@PaulCarreauAnalyst IJuly 22, 2013

Brad Keselowski was the surprise winner of the 2012 Sprint Cup Series championship.
Brad Keselowski was the surprise winner of the 2012 Sprint Cup Series championship.Chris Graythen/Getty Images

In case anyone has forgotten, and I’m sure some people have, Brad Keselowski is the current defending Sprint Cup Series champion. After taking the sport by storm in 2012, the 2013 season has been nothing short of a disappointment for the 29-year-old driver. With his current struggles and the potential of him missing the Chase, asking if Keselowski was just a one-hit wonder is all of a sudden a fair question.

Keselowski’s championship win was probably one of the three biggest championship surprises in the last 25 years. Alan Kulwicki won the championship in 1992 driving for a single-car team that he owned. And in 2004, the first year of the Chase, Kurt Busch stunned the sport by winning the series title after starting the playoffs as the eighth-seeded driver.

While no one has ever doubted Keselowski's talent, it was certainly a surprise to see him achieve so much in such a short period of time. The 2012 season saw him score five wins, which tied him with Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson for the most in the series.

His 23 top-10 finishes were second behind only Johnson, and the 735 laps that he led on the season were good enough for fourth most. Keselowski was running at the finish of 35 of 36 races last year, which trailed only Greg Biffle, who was running at the finish of every event.

It's obvious that Keselowski was a very worthy champion, as he was strong all throughout the season. In fact, even if the series championship were decided under the old format, prior to the Chase, Keselowski still would have won the championship by edging out Biffle by 19 points.

2013 has been a completely different story. After starting the season the way he finished last year, Keselowski has begun a free-fall. Through eight races, he had posted seven top-10 finishes and was third in points.

In his last 11 events, however, Keselowski has only scored two top 10's, and in four of those races he has finished 32nd or worse. He is currently ninth in the points, and has been as low as 13th in that time span.

Keselowski is in serious jeopardy of missing the Chase, which would make him only the second defending champion to miss the Chase in the following season, joining Tony Stewart who failed to qualify for the 2006 Chase.

In fact, Keselowski has already made some unwanted history. He is the only defending series champion in the Chase era to go winless through the first 19 races of their title defense. At 13th place in points, he also became the only defending champion to be outside the top-10 at the season’s halfway point.

There is little doubt that Keselowski will qualify for the Chase many more times in his career, as he is clearly a top-10 driver in the sport. It just seems like 2012 saw the stars align themselves perfectly for Keselowski, and that having history repeat itself seems like a very tall task. 

Maybe one-hit wonder is too harsh of a term to use in describing Keselowski. After all, he is already a nine-time winner in the sport's top series. He has won both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series championships. He has already had more success in his career than most people will ever have.

If you are talking about winning races and finishing inside the top-10 in points, then Brad Keselowski has already proven to be more than just a flash in the pan.

But, if you base it solely on winning championships, you can't help but feel that Keselowski has had his one shining moment, and that history will forever label him as a NASCAR one-hit wonder.