The story of Brad Keselowski and the NASCAR Cup Series team that now bears his name doesn’t start in 2021.
There’s a prologue, long before he joined Roush Fenway Racing.
It occurred in the summer of 2009. A 25-year-old Keselowski, then with Hendrick Motorsports, visited fellow Michigander Jack Roush at his team’s shop in Concord, N.C.
Of the meeting, Keselowski remembers Roush “being very buttoned up and matter of fact, no frills. I appreciated that he got right to the point.”
The point on this day: Whether or not Keselowski was the right fit to drive for Roush.
“I remember him looking at me seriously and saying, ‘Are you serious about moving forward with this opportunity?’” Keselowski recalled to SPEED SPORT. “I told him, ‘If the opportunity’s right, yes.’ And the opportunity wasn’t right, clearly.”
Keselowski joined Team Penske and over the next decade there, he’d claim the 2012 Cup Series title while collecting 67 Cup Series and Xfinity Series victories.
The right opportunity with Roush eventually came. He finally drove a Roush vehicle in December during a Next Gen test at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing — mercifully shortened to RFK Racing — isn’t Keselowski’s first go at NASCAR team ownership.
Five years ago, he shut down Brad Keselowski Racing, his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team that competed for 10 years and earned 11 wins in 305 starts.
After closing the team, Keselowski made clear he desired to be an owner again.
How did his expectations for that potential scenario compare to the reality of 2022?
“I guess (in) the moment I thought it would be in line with some kind of opportunity that co-existed with Team Penske,” Keselowski said. “Candidly, I didn’t know how Next Gen was going to play out. … I thought Next Gen would come on board and it would be a significant technology upgrade, but not mostly a workflow change. And it ended up kind of being the opposite, a small technology change and a significant workflow change. …
“Because the workflow has changed so much, the opportunity ended up being bigger than I thought it would be. So I guess I’m not complaining about that.”
The new chapter of his and Roush’s history was unveiled on Nov. 16 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It included a new team logo and for the first time in about 20 years, a redesign of Roush’s iconic No. 6 race car.
Roush, 79, shared how the dynamic of the team he founded in 1988 would change with Keselowski part of the equation.
“I’ve been besieged by questions over the last decade or so, what my plan was for retirement,” Roush said. “I really couldn’t see how I was going to be able to back away from it without having the kind of approach that Brad’s brought and (team president) Steve Newmark has fostered and guys that are part of our organization now are all signed up for. I’ll be able to back away some and not go to all the races and not being the first one on top of the pit box and the last one to get in the car to go home as I’ve been in the past, for most of the time.”
Keselowski’s relationship with Roush, who he calls “Mr. Jack,” is obviously different than what he experienced with Roger Penske as his boss.
“I more served him and not that I don’t serve Jack Roush, I’m more than willing to do so,” Keselowski said. “But I think Mr. Jack is more than willing to give me a lot of rope to do the things I think I need to do.”
When it comes to personality, Keselowski observed, “There are a lot of ways we’re different.
“Obviously, there’s the age gap,” said Keselowski, who turns 38 this month. “Have different values that go with that. He’s a lot smarter than I am, I’ll tell you that. He’s very savvy in ways that I’m not. … I’m not a super touchy-feely guy, but I do put value to it and being an empathetic leader.”
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