Keselowski could bring Dodge title in final season

By Dan Gelston

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Sept. 30 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Former Philadelphia Eagles safety Brian Dawkins speaks during a news conference at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Dover International Speedway, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, in Dover, Del. Dawkins served as the Grand Marshal for the race before having his jersey retired at an NFL football game.

The Wilmington News-Journal, Daniel Sato) NO SALES, Associated Press

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DOVER, Del. — Brad Keselowski could send Dodge out of NASCAR as a champion.

Dodge decided this season to withdraw from NASCAR competition in both the Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series at the end of this season.

Keselowski has the points lead after his win Sunday at Dover International Speedway. Penske Racing currently fields two Dodge Chargers in Sprint Cup and two Dodge Challengers in Nationwide, but Penske announced in February that it was switching to Fords for the 2013 season, leaving Dodge in the lurch.

Owner Roger Penske said there was no awkwardness in teaming with Dodge to win a title in a lame-duck season.

"The greatest thing we could do would be to bring a championship to Dodge this year," he said. "But I'm sorry to see them get out of the Cup side. Hopefully they might do something in Nationwide. At the moment, we represent them. They're partners. We're going to do our best."

Dodge returned to NASCAR competition in 2001 after an absence of nearly a quarter- century and currently only the two Penske teams, the No. 2 driven by Keselowski and the No. 22 driven by Sam Hornish Jr.

Penske Racing has been with Dodge since 2003.

"It's a unique situation for sure, but one I know we're committed to making the most out of," Keselowski said. "Certainly it would be very special to do (win the championship considering the circumstances."

LOVE, ACTUALLY: Denny Hamlin had one of the cars to beat at Dover.

He just didn't have enough gas.

Hamlin's strong run from the pole, he led 39 laps, ended when he needed to pit late in the race because he was running out of gas in the No. 11.

Hamlin turned to a sports psychologist for advice on how to handle his disdain for his least favorite track. The message for Hamlin was this, "Let your challenge for the week be to fall in love with this track."

Hamlin faded to eighth and is third in the points race, 16 points behind leader and race winner Brad Keselowski.

Hamlin said the No. 11 is so fast, he'll remain a contender to win his first Cup championship. Dover had traditionally given Hamlin fits. He had an average finish of 20.5 in 13 career starts at Dover entering Sunday.

"There's nothing we can't handle on the track," he said. "I think our performance today is testament to where we're heading."

PHOENIX LOOKING: With Kurt Busch set to bolt Phoenix Racing after next week's race at Talladega, the team is on the hunt for a replacement driver for the final six races. Team owner James Finch has been talking to drivers, but the team is without major sponsorship, making it a less than attractive option.

"I know James has talked to Regan Smith and a couple of other guys," crew chief Nick Harrison said. "With no sponsor on the car, we're looking for a driver who might have a sponsorship opportunity or maybe a chance of getting a driver who might have a sponsor."

Harrison said the team was committed to running a full season. But the team needs sponsors.

"It's sad to say that's what it's down to, but it is," he said. "It takes a lot of money to do this and James has spent a lot of money to do it."

Harrison believed the organization might have been able to keep Busch had it attracted a deep-pocketed sponsor. He said there was still plenty of interest from unemployed drivers looking to gamble that a nice finish on an underfunded team in 2012 could lead to a better ride in 2013.

DOVER MALAISE: About 90 minutes before the start of the race, Dover posted on Twitter, "Great seats still available at the gate!"

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