Keselowski: “The pieces fit together” for RFK Racing
Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher at Bristol Motor Speedway. (HHP/Chris Owens)
The last seven days have been a “whirlwind” for Brad Keselowski and the rest of the people who call RFK Racing home.
It all started with Chris Buescher winning the team’s first NASCAR Cup Series race in five years at the night race at Bristol Motor Speedway. After a celebration at the team’s headquarters in Concord, North Carolina, they then took part in two days of testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Then came Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway. Keselowski scored his first Cup pole since 2019 and thus secured RFK Racing its first season since 2013 with multiple poles.
“It’s been a super exciting time for me and for our business here at RFK with a lot of progress we’ve made over the past few months and now it’s starting to show. It’s been a painful but good journey,” said Keselowski after taking his 18th career Cup pole. “It’s just a lot going on in all directions both personally and professionally with this company and my other company and with our foundation. Everything is wide open in all directions. Sometimes it’s hard to stop and reflect on how privileged and blessed I am to be in this position, but a good time nonetheless.
There are plenty of stats to recite that show RFK Racing has grown significantly in 2022 for the first time in nearly a decade.
W team, W photo 📸 pic.twitter.com/0Vk3SNlV5M
— RFK Racing (@RFKracing) September 19, 2022
But the last person to ask about that progress is Keselowski, who still has seven races to go in his first season as part owner/driver with the Jack Roush-founded team.
“I live in my own bubble, so I don’t know if it’s fair for me to answer this question (about the team going through a turning point),” Keselowski said. “I think that’s a question best answered by those outside my bubble. It’s definitely a lot of progress. At the media center last week in Bristol, I think I tried to at least articulate that you do things in this sport and it takes six to 12 months for them to happen.
“Anything you do in this sport in a week or two is probably illegal. The majority of things that come together take months and months of behind-the-scenes work to come together. In that sense, it is super painful. It’s really painful. You do things and you don’t get results and everyone is challenging and questioning the decisions that have been made and you kind of have to stay the course.
The team stayed the course as both its cars went winless in the regular season, missed the playoffs and after a 100-point, $100,000 penalty against Keselowski’s No. 6 team for an L2 infraction after the spring race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Keselowski himself has just four top-10 finishes so far, his fewest since 2010 when he had two in his first full-time season with Team Penske.
Keselowski said much of his first year in his new role was spent in the contentious relationship of wearing both a pilot’s hat and an owner’s hat.
“They look at each other and say ‘not good enough'”. The driver side wants cars to be better and the car owner side says get the finish you can get with the equipment you have,” Keselowski said. “It’s easier said than done on both sides. I was probably a victim of pushing too hard and not having the equipment we needed at the start of the year and not always getting the finishes we needed to move on.
“It was really necessary to run from 15th to 20th because we had cars in 25th and that’s what we have. I probably fell victim to trying to pull too much out of it and making our days worse than they needed to be, but also pushing them in such a way that it was very clear what the limits were with our cars and their performance and what we needed to do to make them better. On the owner side, I think our people are maturing and our processes are maturing. We’ve added great resources in a number of areas. There are a lot of pieces that are sure to fit together.
Keselowski says he’s not the right person to ask about RFK’s progress. But if anyone can vouch for how far the team has come, it’s Texas native Chris Buescher.
Buescher, 29, is a veteran of 250 NASCAR Cup races and was originally signed as a Roush development driver in 2009. Despite tenures with Front Row Motorsports and JTG Daugherty Racing, Buescher has intimate knowledge of the history of RFK Racing over the past decade.
Buescher’s win at Bristol, just his second Cup win, ended a 222-race winless streak (Pocono 2016). But that win came with Front Row Motorsports. Bristol was his first win with RFK Racing since his 2015 Xfinity Series Championship campaign.
“It took a while to come and it was really cool because everyone at RFK has struggled over the years and I’ve been through the peak and the absolute highs and I’ve also seen the lows in along the way.” Buescher said. “To take this turn to get back to where we are competing for wins again and being able to pick up some wins is really special for me and everyone in the business.
“I have so many friends within the organization that I have known for most of my time in North Carolina and it’s something that means a little bit more when you see these guys and girls who really put so a lot of effort during this time frame to be able to see progress. Brad is a champion of our sport and has won I don’t even know how many races. I think it’s really special to start but we haven’t finished. This is not our peak. We have a lot of potential for the future and we will pursue it.
“We might as well go back to my original track and continue here, right?”