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December 27, 2012

Small-townies grew up to do big things

(Continued)

Everything changed under Wolfe. Keselowski won three races last season and finished fifth in the Chase. This year marked the biggest achievement, when the No. 2 won the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. The victory came when title contender and five-time champion Jimmie Johnson pulled out of the season finale because of a parts failure. Keselowski stayed out of trouble during the final 60 miles, which turned into 40 victory laps around Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Wolfe started in NASCAR as a driver in 2000 and worked for a series of teams as a driver and crew chief before joining Penske Racing and Keselowski in Nationwide Series in 2010.

“It has been obviously a long road and a lot of hard work,” Wolfe, a 1995 graduate of Milford Central School, said of his journey from being a Wildcat to being the crew chief. “I just continued to put myself around good people. I am very lucky to work for a good company in Penske Racing and a great driver with Brad.”

Keselowski first approached Wolfe 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.”

However, by then, everything had changed for Wolfe, whose former team at CJM racing had lost funding.

“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.”

Wolfe said he never expected that he could be a NASCAR driver, but he wanted to get into the sport for a long time.

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