Race Weekend Central

After Rebuilding RFK Racing, Brad Keselowski Makes Triumphant Return To Victory Lane

Brad Keselowski ended a 110-race winless drought and scored his first win with RFK Racing in Sunday’s (May 12) Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway. It was the exclamation point of a long climb for not only Keselowski to return to prominence, but for RFK to reemerge as one of NASCAR’s most formidable teams.

RFK — then known as Roush Racing — was a dominant force in the late 90s and mid-2000s as it contended for wins and championships, winning back-to-back titles in 2003 with Matt Kenseth and then in 2004 with Kurt Busch. Other drivers like Mark Martin, Jeff Burton and Carl Edwards were all superstars for the team.

They were running up front with Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing, but somewhere down the road, things slowly fell apart. The team became a two-car operation, a shell of its former glory in performance. They were the biggest team at one point, with five drivers racing for them before NASCAR reduced the maximum number of cars a team can field to four.

See also
Brad Keselowski Breaks 110-Race Winless Streak at Darlington, Earns 1st 2024 Win for Ford

Greg Biffle was asked about from his perspective what caused that downward spiral when he was there and on his way out from leaving.

“It needed an infusion of something to turn it around,” Biffle said. “Unfortunately, I made my exit when I did because of competition, and Brad was that guy to come in and upset the apple cart so to speak, to get people to think outside the box. You can see that steady progression, the last few weeks have been a testament to that.

“It’s so hard to pinpoint, we were in those meetings week after week, my frustration was you have to recognize there’s an issue and not try and tell yourself that you’re going to be better the next week and keep doing the same thing. You have to make those painful decisions that something has to change, hope is great but you need action to change.”

Keselowski became a Cup Series champion in 2012 for Penske and eventually left the team to become an owner of the newly branded RFK Racing in 2022. With RFK’s performance, many fans and industry workers wondered why he would go from a competitive team to start over at a place that is a shell of its former self.

“I heard from some fans, I can’t believe you’re throwing your career away, and then you’re kind of like, well, maybe they’re right,” Keselowski said. “But then on the flipside, I was looking at the sport and I’m just thinking to myself that if I dig deep here, I can get this thing where it needs to be.”

Keselowski also knew what he was giving up at the start, seeing former teammates Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney winning championships in 2022 and 2023 respectively, knowing that opportunity or second title could have been his during those years. He commented on the journey with the team and seeing those moments happen.

“There’s been a lot of deep digging moments,” Keselowski said. “That’s been part of the journey. They’re not all fun. In fact, a lot of them aren’t fun. But it’s part of the journey. Same thing when Joey and Blaney won the championship last year and the year before, and they’re right. But I’m not upset about that. I’m happy for those guys. Like I said, I still have meaningful relationships with Joey and with Blaney, and I’m happy to see them be successful.”

See also
Chris Buescher Confronts Tyler Reddick After Late-Race Contact at Darlington

Chris Buescher has seemed to carry the RFK torch, winning all of its races up to this point. And even though it was a long wait for Keselowski to reach victory lane with RFK, he had nothing but praise for his teammate’s accomplishments.

“There’s a natural comparison,” Keselowski said. “Everybody likes to do the comparisons. I get it. Some of those comparisons are fair and some of them aren’t. I think Chris has done an excellent job putting himself in position to win races and catching the good breaks that go with it.

“I thought last year when he won Michigan, it was a perfect example of just that. He put himself in a great spot, just dug hard, didn’t have the fastest car and won the race. That’s amazing.”

RFK has finished second in every race, with the exception of Dover Motor Speedway, since Keselowski finished second at Texas Motor Speedway in April. After losing by one one-thousandth of a second the prior week at Kansas Speedway, it was very fitting that RFK won the very next week.

“A lot of second place finishes, close calls, [in] this sport second doesn’t get you anything. Wins are really everything,” Keselowski said.

David Ragan was the last driver to win in the No. 6 car prior to Keselowski, doing so at Daytona International Speedway in July 2011. The No. 6 car got its first Cup win at Darlington since Martin won in September 1993, adding to the new legacy of RFK. Keselowski commented on that accomplishment and time since winning.

“It never comes as quick as you want it to,” Keselowski said. “It’s a tedious, painful process that takes a deep grind at all levels, whether that’s the driver level, the organizational level, the pit crew level. But that grind is worth it when you have moments like this.”

His teammate Buescher looked to win, but contact with Tyler Reddick ended his day after he cut a tire. While one driver celebrates, the other is defeated. Buescher did praise his team owner after giving comments about his situation.

“There’s a fight in this team right now,” Buescher said. “No single track accident is going to take that away from us. There’s speed there, with Brad winning right there, that’s huge. Congrats to Brad on a huge win, that’s massive.”

Keselowski isn’t done yet and wants more. His only title did come in 2012, and he’s definitely looking to the future and believes he can still accomplish a lot.

“I’ve got a lot more I want to do,” Keselowski said. “Thirty-six wins is great. It’s a nice stat to have, but I want to win a lot more.”

About the author

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Brad was the underdog, even his father said way back when that Brad’s brother Brian was the better racer of the two. Brad is very smart and proved his dad and a whole bunch of people wrong about a lot of things about him. He lobbied Roger hard to hire Logano, and that came from Roger himself.


Amazing the change for RFK is such a short time! As a fellow Michigander, I’m impressed with the difference brad has made for the team. Good to see Jack back with a big smile on his face.

Carl D.

I’ve been a Keselowski fan since he got his first win for James Finch. It’s been way too long since Brad went to victory lane, and I’m savoring this one almost as much as he is. WTG, Brad! Good luck in the All-Star race.

Share via
We'd like to hear from you, please comment.x