What Brad Keselowski’s move means for the future with Roush Fenway and Ryan Newman

·5 min read

Longtime Team Penske driver Brad Keselowski will transition to Roush Fenway Racing next NASCAR Cup season as a driver and team co-owner. Keselowski confirmed his move Tuesday alongside RFR owner Jack Roush, team president Steve Newmark and Fenway Sports Group executive vice president Ed Weiss during an announcement at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte.

Keselowski will drive the No. 6 Ford next season, replacing driver Ryan Newman. He will also head the team’s competition committee in addition to purchasing a minority stake in the company, setting up a longterm succession plan for the two-car Cup organization.

“I cannot see a day where I’m done driving and I don’t want to be apart of this sport,” Keselowski said. “And this opportunity allows me to do just that — to be able to have a role in the sport past my driving career.”

Keselowski has spent the last 10 seasons driving the No. 2 car for Roger Penske in NASCAR’s Cup Series and the last 11 seasons competing full-time for the Penske-owned team at the top level. While this is not the first time Keselowski has ventured into team ownership, it marks a significant career transition for the 37-year-old driver. He formerly owned Truck Series team Brad Keselowski Racing, which helped propel the careers of current full-time Cup drivers Ryan Blaney, Tyler Reddick, Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric, among others competing in NASCAR’s three national series. The operation closed at the end of 2018 and Keselowski at the time reiterated his interest in eventually becoming an owner at the top level.

He outlined multiple points Tuesday that he said were an important factor in his most recent career decision, including securing a longterm driving contract, having a leadership role in the organization and gaining an ownership stake, with the move representing personal and professional growth.

NASCAR Hall of Fame member and team founder Roush, 79, said that he doesn’t plan to retire in the near future, but hinted that Keselowski will eventually gain his portion of ownership.

“One of the things that’s been a challenge for me is to answer the questions I’ve gotten over a period of time: ‘When are you gonna retire? What’s your succession plan?’ ” Roush said. “Well, Brad Keselowski and the Next Gen car and the things we can do together in the near term and future that we see long term is my retirement plan. And I just hope I can take lots of green flags and lots of checkered flags before we get there.”

Newmark said Tuesday that he’s been in discussion with Newman about racing part-time for the team running a third car without a charter, but Newman is still determining his plans. Chris Buescher will return to the driver’s seat at Roush next season in the No. 17 car with sponsorship announcements pending for it and the No. 6.

The team is also partially owned by Fenway Sports Group, owner of the MLB’s Boston Red Sox, which purchased a 50% stake of Roush Racing in 2007. Newmark said that Roush and Fenway Sports Group retained their portions of the company, expanding to include Keselowski, and that the team will continue to be called Roush Fenway Racing, though that could later change.

The shift is logically timed with NASCAR’s debut of its industry-transforming Next Gen car in 2022, but Penske said last week that he intended for Keselowski to remain at the team for another two to three years. Penske said he offered Keselowski a two-year deal in 2020, but the driver extended his contract by just a year through this season in order to pivot to ownership elsewhere without that option available at Penske. The team announced last week that Cindric will drive the No. 2 car next season.

“There were a lot of other opportunities that were thrown at me, whether it be by Team Penske or for other teams, but not one of them held a candle to this one,” Keselowski said.

Terms of his driving contract were not disclosed, but Keselowski said he feels like he has at least a five-year runway to continue racing and contending for championships. He pointed to Tony Stewart’s career path as a driver who, also at 37 years old, transitioned to part ownership at Stewart-Haas Racing as a model for the success he hopes to achieve at Roush.

“I kind of feel like I’m buying into a stock that’s about to go up,” Keselowski said.

He said he’ll remain committed to his duties at Penske through the 2021 season, racing as “frienemies” against current Roush drivers Newman in the No. 6 and Chris Buescher in the No. 17. Keselowski, the 2012 Cup champion, has 35 wins in NASCAR’s top series and all but one he achieved driving for Team Penske. He is ranked ninth in points and locked into the postseason with one win this year at Talladega. He earned his seventh top-five finish of the season placing third at New Hampshire last Sunday.

“I would be remiss to say I’m a little bit sad to leave some great people, some great friendships,” Keselowski said, thanking his Penske team. “But I’m more so excited of course with this opportunity in front.”

Additionally, Newmark mentioned Roush’s interest in expanding to eventually fielding cars in the lower-level Xfinity and Truck Series, though there are not yet concrete plans for that expansion. Keselowski said that he is “very interested” in adding those programs, and noted the required consideration of the cost models and proper partnerships, highlighting his thought process as an eventual owner and leading voice at Roush. Newark commended Keselowski’s cerebral thinking and leadership skills.

“This is the next step in the evolution of our team and we’re extremely confident that this is going to facilitate and allow us to excel for years to come,” he said.

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