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Watching Danny B: “How Brad Keselowski Saved Roush-Fenway Racing”

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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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When 2012 NASCAR Cup Series Champion, Brad Keselowski first announced that he was leaving the famed Team Penske for 2022, many fans viewed the move through skeptical lenses. There was some talk at the time that Brad K. was going to be a shot in the arm of the floundering team of Roush-Fenway Racing, to later be rebranded as RFK Racing, needed as he would become a minority owner for the team.

Many compared the move to Tony Stewart leaving Joe Gibbs Racing to team up with Gene Haas to form Stewart-Haas Racing. While at the time, that was considered to be a genius move as the team would go on to win a championship with owner-driver, Tony Stewart in 2011 and again with Kevin Harvick in 2014. But still, many were skeptical of Brad swooping in and “saving RFK”, because, surely, lightning couldn’t strike twice, right? Right?

Well, it hadn’t. Not yet, not really. But it wasn’t exactly the career suicidal move many thought it would be. In fact, many are saying that Brad has had a very positive influence on that organization and that they are on the cusp of returning to the glory days of the early-to-mid 2000s.

Our friend, DannyB Talks from YouTube believes that RFK Racing is making a comeback. So much so that he made a video about it. What I found most interesting is how Brad K’s story mixes and mingles with the downfall of Roush Racing. So, let’s settle in with a good snack and give it a watch, shall we?

The video begins with a package of clips. Starting out, it has what is considered perhaps to be RFK’s finest moment: their first Cup Series Championship with Matt Kenseth in 2003. Turn the page to the next scene and it is a clip from when Greg Biffle went on the Dale Jr. Download and confessed to his former competitor and the world that there were several times when he should have left RFK, complaining that they just didn’t have the equipment to compete with the best of the best. Then it cuts to a happier time, with Kurt Busch scoring the team their second-straight championship, their last title to date, back in 2004. Then it shows the big wreck that happened between Carl Edwards and none other than Brad Keselowski at Talladega in 2009 which saw the latter scoring his first career win and jumpstarted a bitter rivalry between the two drivers. Then there’s a flash forward to Greg Biffle winning at Michigan and then him getting into a wreck at Kentucky with, you guessed it, Brad K.

When DannyB’s voiceover begins, he brings us up to date with where RFK is now, in the year 2023, with Chris Buescher winning 3 of the last 5 races and owner-driver himself, Brad Keselowski, having many promising performances, a handful of them falling just short of victory. He then states that he remembers a time, and not that long ago when the team seemed to be flailing beyond repair.

The video is structured with many flashbacks to RFK’s finer days in the mid-2000s through their inevitable fall and eventual rise again. Our first flashback is to the fall Richmond race in 2005.

2005

In an attempt to defend his 2004 as well as gift Jack Roush with his unprecedented third championship in as many years, Kurt Busch scores the victory. And, just like that, the then-10-man Chase for the NASCAR Nextel Cup of 2005 is set. In addition to Busch’s victory and championship hopes, this would be the first and only time all 5 teams (as this was before the now 4-team limit) owned by a single owner advanced into the postseason. That gave the team a staggering 50% chance that one of their drivers would walk away with the Cup.

Seems like guaranteed odds, right? Well, as DannyB puts it, it doesn’t quite work out that way. Tony Stewart won the 2005 Cup title and Roush never won another title at NASCAR’s highest level to date.

2012

The newly named Roush-Fenway Racing starts the 2012 season strong with their most seasoned driver, Matt Kenseth, scoring his second victory in the Great American Race, the Daytona 500. Despite this, their wins are fewer and farther in-between than they ever had been before and the team had reduced to 3 full-time cars rather than 5 with Greg Biffle in the No. 16, Matt Kenseth in the No. 17, and Carl Edwards in the No. 99. Those days would be limited, though, as the latter two of their 2012 lineup would both depart in the years that followed for the greener pastures of Joe Gibbs Racing.

Meanwhile, while Roush-Fenway’s team was noticeably falling off in performance despite winning a race every now and again, a key partner in the team’s long-term and future success was just a couple of years into his young career in the NASCAR Cup Series and, ever since taking over the Blue Duce from Kurt Busch, he was hitting the ground running. He would hoist his first and only Championship to date and all anyone could talk about was that it was the first of many for Brad and the Captain. Right?

2018

By the year 2018 rolled around, Brad Keselowski hadn’t been able to capture his second championship and the team he owned in the NASCAR Truck Series, Brad Keselowski Racing, had already closed its doors. Brad was still winning races but with his teammate, Joey Logano winning the 2018 championship and Team Penske shifting their focus away from Keselowski and more towards Logano’s No. 22, it seemed as though the future with Brad and the team was not as bright or as promising as it once was.

His contract deals were getting shorter and Miller Lite stepped away as a major primary sponsor who had sponsored a majority of the team’s races on the year dating all the way back to Rusty Wallace’s time with the team.

Meanwhile, over at Roush-Fenway Racing, by 2018 the team had dropped from a 3-car operation to a 2-car team with results which seemed to pale year after year. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who won 2 superspeedway races the year before in ’17, has become the flagship driver and main focus of the team while Trevor Bayne and the semi-retired Matt Kenseth split time in the flagship No. 6 car. The team would go winless in 2018, and not even their former brightest star Matt Kenseth was able to revive them even remotely to their former glory. This left fans wondering whether or not the team would even survive in the years to come, let alone make a comeback.

2021-Present

Late in 2021, Brad Keselowski made the shocking announcement that he was buying into the now-renamed RFK Racing and would drive their flagship No. 6 car. This came as a result of Bad Brad becoming tired of taking one-year contract extensions as he yarned for and felt like he deserved a little more stability for his long-term future in the sport. Chris Buescher was driving the No. 17 car by this point and Ryan Newman was in the 6. With this change, Newman would step away from full-time racing only to return to Rick Ware Racing, which holds a close working relationship with RFK, in 2023 to drive their No. 51 car part-time.

By the time 2022 hit, it was clear that Brad had some work to do behind the scenes. The No. 6 team would be hit by a massive 100-point penalty and both teams would fail to make the postseason that year. Rather than wallow in their mistakes, they learned from them.

Brad, as DannyB points out, is no slouch when it comes to owning a team. His truck series operation went out on top still winning races and he learned under the wings of both Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Roger Penske how to be an effective team owner. The highlight of the 2022 season was the driver of the RFK No. 17, Chris Buescher stealing a win at Bristol Motor Speedway after Brad himself as well as leader, Christopher Bell suffered part failures.

Fast forward to 2023 and BOTH Brad Keselowski (on points) and Chris Buescher (by winning 3 races) have qualified for the 2023 Playoffs and seemed to be inching closer to their old selves in terms of performance. The highlight of the year again is Chris Buescher in the No. 17 car as he has won 3 of the last 5 races to secure his playoff birth but owner-driver, Bad Brad isn’t too far behind. DannyB says in the video that he firmly has RFK Racing as one of the championship favorites this year considering how they seem to be peaking at the right time. He also points out that there are several promising tracks coming up for the RFK duo in Bristol, Talladega, and Martinsville, all three of which could easily sneak them into the Championship 4 at Phoenix.

DannyB ends the video saying that the future is unknown with Brad and RFK but he compares it to his beloved Tennessee Volunteers football team. He believes that under Brad’s leadership, both the Vols and RFK are back as week-in and week-out competitors.

What did you think of the video, Daily Downforce readers and DannyB Talks viewers? Do you agree with Danny that RFK Racing is back? Were you extremely skeptical going into the partnership but are now singing a different tune? Let us know your thoughts and opinions!

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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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