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November 19, 2012

Way to go, Paul Wolfe

The Daily Star

---- — 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion.

Milford native Paul Wolfe can now add that line to his resume.

Wolfe is crew chief of the No. 2 Miller Lite Penske Racing Dodge driven by Brad Keselowski. The team held a 20-point lead over five-time champion Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus going into the season finale at Homestead-Miami on Sunday.

Wolfe and Keselowski ran a conservative race, only needing to finish 15th or better no matter what their opponents did — and that is what they did. Johnson had mechanical problems and ended up finishing 36th.

The Penske team had a great year. It came into the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup, NASCAR’s version of the playoffs, in fourth, earning three victories in the regular season. Wolfe and Keselowski picked up two more trophies in the Chase, leading the points in six of the nine races leading up to the finale and not finishing worse than 11th in that time.

Many people are comparing the Wolfe-Keselowski pairing favorably to the duo of Knaus and Johnson, often called the best driver-crew chief combination in the Sprint Cup Series.

Their styles are different, with Knaus usually having total control over the race-day calls, while Wolfe and Keselowski often discuss the best way to the run the race.

In May, ESPN columnist Terry Blount ranked Wolfe, who graduated from Milford Central School in 1995, as the best crew chief in NASCAR.

Keselowski first approached Wolfe, a former driver, about being his crew chief in 2009, but was turned down. When he started with his team at Penske, and Wolfe’s name came up, Keselowski reportedly told his bosses, “good luck with that; he already said no.”

“Originally, well, I consider myself a pretty loyal guy,” Wolfe said. “I was committed to my team at the time. At the end of that season, we lost our funding, so at that point, I looked at all my options. I had raced with Brad, and I saw what he was capable of doing. I thought he and I could work together and contend for the championship.”

And they did. That year, he and Keselowski won Penske’s first championship in NASCAR.

The following year, Wolfe joined Keselowski in the top-tier series, winning three races and finishing fifth for the season.

Now in their second year in Sprint Cup, they brought home Penske his first long-awaited top-tier series championship and gave Dodge a fine send off, as Dodge is not campaigning cars in NASCAR next year.

We’re proud to claim Wolfe as one of our own, and congratulate him and his team on a great season.

We can’t wait for next year.