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CUP: Keselowski NMPA Driver Of Year

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Brad Keselowski, NASCAR’s surprise Sprint Cup champion for 2012, picked up another award Sunday night.

Keselowski was named the Richard Petty Driver of the Year by the National Motorsports Press Association and received the award Sunday night at the group’s annual awards dinner.

The NMPA is an organization of writers, broadcasters and photographers.

Keselowski won his first Sprint Cup title last season, scoring five victories and finishing 39 points in front of Clint Bowyer for the title. The race came down to the final event at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and former champion Jimmie Johnson challenged Keselowski until running into trouble on pit road. Bowyer rallied to edge Johnson by one point for second place in the seasonal standings.

The championship was the first for long-time team owner Roger Penske.

Keselowski won races at Bristol, Talladega, Kentucky, Chicago and Dover. The Chicago and Dover wins came in the Chase for the Sprint Cup and established Keselowski as a championship favorite early in the playoffs.

Keselowski led the points for seven of the 10 weeks during the Chase.

Also Sunday night, Rockingham Speedway president Andy Hillenburg received the NMPA Speedway Motorsports Spirit Award, given annually to an individual who overcomes adversity or shows outstanding sportsmanship. Hillenburg revived the defunct Rockingham track and engineered the return of NASCAR – via the Camping World Truck Series – to the speedway last season.

Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 30 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.