Brad Keselowski Embracing Challenges as Team Owner

Veteran racer and first-year Cup team owner has struggled this season but understands the long game that he and RFK Racing are chasing.
Brad Keselowski Embracing Challenges as Team Owner

When Brad Keselowski left Team Penske he knew this new journey would not be easy. Becoming a co-owner of a team in the Cup Series while also maintaining his career as a driver is something seldom seen in this sport. As the season nears the halfway point, the results have been futile but he and the Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing organization remain upbeat about their future.

Keselowski recently spoke to reporters in St Louis. "It’s going to be tough for either one of our two teams to make the playoffs, but I’m optimistic. It’s going to take a win. I’m optimistic that we can at any time work through it and find a solution, and I’m committed to doing just that."

"We made initially a lot of headway," Keselowski recalled. "I felt we were going to have a really good May, and that hasn’t panned out so far. There are a number of reasons for that – some in our control and some not in our control. Charlotte, we didn’t start the race very well, and we finally got to where we were competitive and moving forward, and I thought going to have a solid run and got caught up in a wreck so that was unfortunate."

Brad Keselowski Embracing Challenges as Team Owner

The season did begin on a high note down in Daytona. For the first time in his career, Keselowski was able to win one of the Duel races on the 2.5-mile superspeedway. Even more impressive, Chris Buescher took the other RFK Racing Ford to victory lane in the second race, as the team swept the event under the lights. The optimism was overflowing heading into the Daytona 500, where they showcased their speed.

Early in the race Keselowski had proven that he was an excellent pusher, but it ultimately backfired as he triggered a massive accident that ended with Harrison Burton on his roof. Brad was able to keep going in the race came away with a top-ten after leading 67 laps. That was the good news. The bad news is that through 15 races this season, that 9th place finish is his only top-ten result.

This season has been quite the opposite of Keselowski's 2012 campaign. After crashing in the Daytona 500 and finishing 32nd, he sat 29th in the points standings. He never had another DNF that season and won five races on his way to hoisting the championship trophy. A decade later, Brad is now trying to practice that same patience as the season presses on.

Before all of the success with Penske, Brad began his Cup career with another legendary team owner. His first four races all came with Rick Hendrick. He didn't set the world on fire but most people could see the potential. Even after just two top-ten finishes in his first full season with Penske (two 10th place finishes) it was clear that he had the talent, it was just a matter of time before he could be molded into a race winner.

That is exactly what Keselowski blossomed into during his time driving for The Captain. With 35 wins in Cup and 39 wins in Xfinity, Keselowski is no stranger to victory lane. He even has a Truck win on his resume, driving one of his own machines. The majority of his wins have come with Penske, and he is trying to take the lessons learned from that premier organization to his current two-car operation.

When you factor in all of his starts in Cup, Xfinity, and Trucks, Keselowski has run more than 850 career races under his belt. Looking at his victories, seven of them have come on short tracks, and the other 28 on speedways and superspeedways. He has 32 career starts on road courses, but is still searching for his first win. That likely won't be coming today at Sonoma where he starts 22nd, but a good solid result would do wonders for this team ahead of the off weekend.

Keselowski's last four finishes are 34th at Darlington, 14th at Kansas, 30th at Charlotte, and 20th last week at Gateway. He is currently 30th in the championship standings, and time is running out to turn his season around. It didn't help that he and the team were hit with a massive penalty following the race at Atlanta.

The No. 6 team was docked 100 driver and owner points for an L2-level penalty after NASCAR's R&D center found modification to a single source supplied part. That penalty took them from the edge of the playoff bubble to 35th at the time it was announced. Even if they are somehow able to sneak into the playoffs, they will be deducted 10 playoff points at the beginning of the 10-race stretch.

RFK Racing lost the appeal to the penalty, which was a big gut punch to the organization. "The tail panel had a key feature that NASCAR deemed was not repaired adequately enough," Keselowski said. "It’s a tough situation. We didn’t want to run the tail panel. We didn’t have any new tail panels to put on the car. We had a tail panel with three races on it and we did some repairs to it. We probably could have done a better job on the repair and we put NASCAR in a tough spot."

Brad Keselowski Embracing Challenges as Team Owner

The team is clearly lacking speed, which is evident in their qualifying performances. Keselowski's 19.9 average starting position is one of the worst in the series. "The weakest piece is we’re just not fast enough" he said. "We need to find some speed for sure, and frustrating and a bit of a moving target of where that seems to lie week in and week out. But ultimately, it’s our responsibility to get it. I’m optimistic we can find the pieces we need to get going."

Despite the grim outlook for this season, the organization is not ready to throw in the towel to focus on next year. "My goals haven’t changed. We need to win races and we need to get to a spot where we can contend to win races. We haven’t been there enough. We’ve had probably two or three races where we’ve been close to it, and that’s not near enough. We’ve got to push, and we’ve got to find that next level."

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