MOORESVILLE, N.C. — Brad Keselowski has spent nearly his entire NASCAR Cup Series career at Team Penske, but that will change at the conclusion of the season.
Team Penske confirmed Thursday that Keselowski would not return to the team’s flagship No. 2 Ford Mustang next season, with reigning NASCAR Xfinity Series champion and hot prospect Austin Cindric announced as the new driver of the No. 2.
It’ll be a huge change for the Team Penske organization, which hasn’t changed drivers in any of its trio of Cup Series cars since Joey Logano joined the team to pilot the No. 22 in 2013. Ryan Blaney was added to the team as a full-time driver in 2018 in a third car.
“There’s been lots of speculation, really, with Brad moving on and I think it helps him to take on his next stage in his career and then we can bring Austin up into the 2 car, and I think when you go back you look at Joey and you look at Blaney and you look at Brad, all these guys came up through this farm system you might call it, whether it’s Busch or Xfinity,” said Team Penske owner Roger Penske during a teleconference Thursday afternoon. “With that I think the process is working and I couldn’t be prouder to say that he’s (Cindric) gonna be the driver of the No. 2 car, and I think he’s earned the respect.
“You come in as the son of the guy who is the president of Team Penske (Tim Cindric), you’d probably come in with a little bit of weight on your shoulders, but I can tell you one thing, as far as I’m concerned, all that’s off. He’s proven to be the driver he is, the individual he is today, so it’s a long run, it’s a big step for him, but as far as I’m concerned the team, the sponsors are fully committed.”
Penske confirmed what had long been rumored, that Keselowski wanted an ownership stake at Team Penske as part of his contract. However, Penske said that simply wasn’t possible.
“We’d expected to get Brad in for another two or three years based on the term that he probably wanted to race,” Penske said. “Unfortunately, and good for him, quite honestly, he wanted to have ownership. The way we’re structured it just wasn’t available at Team Penske.”
Penske said that Keselowski, who has won 34 of his 35 Cup Series victories while driving for Team Penske, will remain a friend of the team despite the split.
“When you think about Brad and what he’s done for us, together with Xfinity and Cup, he’s got over 75 race wins,” Penske said. “He’s the leader in the clubhouse from a team perspective. Our first Xfinity championship or Busch championship. The NASCAR (Cup) champion, and then where he’s run in the playoffs here lately, there couldn’t be a better guy.
“I have a lot to thank him for. I’ve got a picture in my office, in fact, with us in the winner’s circle for the first championship that we ever had within in NASCAR for us on the Cup side, so I can always say he was a consistent performer, a very winning operation guy with our team. He brought a lot to it,” Penske continued. “He was a student of the sport and we’re sorry to see him go, but, on the other hand, we’ve got a season to finish out. This was not a disagreement or anything else. This was a business decision that was made on both sides fairly and squarely, and, quite honestly, Brad will be a friend of the family and a friend of the team forever.”
Keselowski’s future, while unconfirmed, seems all but set. Multiple media outlets have reported that Keselowski, the 2012 NASCAR Cup Series champion, will join Roush Fenway Racing as both an owner and driver next season.
Should that come to fruition, Keselowski will achieve his goal of securing an ownership stake in a NASCAR Cup Series program as he nears the end of his full-time driving career.
The Michigan native released a statement on Twitter Thursday morning confirming his departure from the team while wishing Cindric and Penske the best moving forward.
“Making the decision to part ways with Team Penske to embrace a new opportunity and challenge was a difficult one, and one I did not take lightly,” Keselowski said. “I know that I am leaving in a good place though, and I am both excited and eager to share the details of what’s next for me soon.”