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The Fall of RFK: What Happened?

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Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
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I’m old enough to remember when Roush Racing (yes, before Fenway ever came into the equation) was considered a juggernaut in the NASCAR Cup Series. They dominated joints like Michigan and Homestead and won back-to-back championships in 2003 (Matt Kenseth) and 2004 (Kurt Busch). With Carl Edwards rising through the ranks, they looked to have a bright future as a powerhouse in NASCAR’s top division that could rival and maybe even surpass Hendrick Motorsports.

Heck, in 2005, the Chase of the Nextel Cup that year was littered with Roush drivers. Literally half the Chase field that season was from Roush. It seems insane to think about that now.

The team was in steep decline shortly after that record shattering season (a record that will never be broken again with the Cup Series rule which limits teams to only 4 entries). Star drivers left and took many of their sponsorship dollars with them. The developmental side of things in the NASCAR Xfinity and Truck Series also dried up which obviously hindered performance in the big leagues years later. Everything appeared to be doom and gloom.

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That was until jaded Penske driver Brad Keselowski swooped in, purchased a stake in the team, and became NASCAR’s latest owner-driver. Things were looking up for the company for the first time in close to a decade. Unfortunately for long-time Ford and/or Roush fans as well as Bad Brad (or maybe Bread?) fans, Keselowski hasn’t thus far been able to turn the organization around, Tony Stewart style. Let’s talk about it.

Overall, the 2022 season for RFK racing was pretty abysmal. However, it did get started on a rather optimistic note. Brad started it with his statement victory in his Daytona duel, proving that his 6 wins at Talladega (tied for all-time second with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon who have 6 trailing Dale Earnhardt Sr. with 10) were not flukes. Then, on the same night, his teammate and employee, Chris Buescher avoided a last-lap crash to do the same.

Overall, the night gave off Dale Jr. vibes from when he won the Budweiser Shootout and his Duel race in 2008 with his first starts with Hendrick Motorsports. Little did they know at the time, the night was the first of only two highlights in RFK’s 2022 season.

Just going to be blunt with it: Brad Keselowski struggled hardcore in 2022. He netted 0 wins, only 6 top-10s, and an embarrassing by Bad Brad’s standards 1 top-5.

He was consistently outrun by his teammate who netted 10 top-10s, 3 top-5s, and, at the Bristol night race in September, he scored the team’s one and only points-paying win.

While 2023 seems to be a slight improvement in performance compared to last season, the struggles have more-or-less continued…and those struggles were never more apparent than at Bristol Motor Speedway’s Food City Dirt race on Easter.

As soon as the green flag dropped and the racing began, so did RFK as they fell hard through the field, both drivers falling to the mid-30s.

To make matters worse, “Bread” Keselowski also spun with only 60 laps into the race. The damage was insignificant so he was able to continue.

Some of the best posts from social media Sunday night came from the RFK Racing social media team. At the end of the first stage, they gave their fans an update on how their boys were running. Well, at least they had optimism.

And, of course, Brad went for a second spin a little past halfway…

NASCAR Content Editor, Dustin Albino notes the marked difference in performance between Bristol Dirt and the good ole concrete Bristol as last September, BOTH RFK cars seemed awfully sporty. This April, not so much.

And believe Bad Brad, he notices the difference too. He posted this after the race wrapped up.

Shaun pointed out much of the same on Twitter…

AJ Blehschmidt theorizes that RFK’s performance at Bristol Dirt was purposeful. It’s an interesting theory, for sure. Maybe with only one dirt track on the schedule, teams can afford to use this one-off as an R&D race. But if they add another dirt race or two to the 2024 schedule like Out of the Groove’s Eric Estepp proposed, teams would be forced to take dirt racing more seriously.

I don’t know if this is really the case (I lean towards ‘no’) but it’s fun to think about. Regardless, RFK has struggled most of the year so it may not even matter.

This Bad Brad fan, IcyShy, yarns for the return of Bristol on the concrete.

@GrevyBoat keeping it real with their frustrations.

After a run-in with Michael McDowell, the RFK social team tweeted this funny tweet.

And, of course, Brad spun for a third time…

After the third spin, the RFK social team was done with the whole Bristol Dirt mess…

They went home to think of the better days when bad Brad used to dominate all the concrete tracks in the Xfinity Series.

But fret not, RFK fans! While sitting at home feeling sorry for themselves, RFK’s social media reps were able to work up a little excitement when their boy, Christopher Buescher cracked the top-15! Too bad he wouldn’t finish there.

After a long night of struggles and spins (at least for the No. 6 car), the two RFK entries were able to salvage a couple of top-20s…

So the question here is: what happened to RFK? When Brad joined the team last year, there was a lot of hype around it. Many fans and those in the media speculated that it was going to be like when Tony Stewart joined Haas back in 2009 but it just hasn’t happened that way.

With the NextGen car, the field should be on a level playing field. Why is RFK so far off the pace? Do you have any theories? Thoughts? Let us know! Hopefully RFK can continue to get better but it would see, at least at this point in the season, that it’s a long slow process.

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Picture of Cody Williams

Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
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