Clock ticking for RFK to get both cars locked into Cup playoffs

The calendar is working against Brad Keselowski.

“I think my goal that we set was to have it done by the middle of June – to have both cars locked into the playoffs,” Keselowski said at Iowa Speedway. “So, there’s still time.”

Not exactly. While there is still time to lock both cars into the playoffs, there’s not as much as Keselowski thought. Friday was June 14th, which took him by surprise. He was off on the date by a few days, thinking it was still early in the month.

“That’s less than I thought,” he laughed. “But we’re really happy with how competitive the cars are, how well the teams are clicking, and there is some happenstance involved in winning races and some performance. I think we have solid cars right now.


“Were we as fast as [Kyle Larson] last week? No, no, we weren’t. We weren’t anywhere close to that with either of our two cars, but I expect we’ll be very competitive over the next three weeks and have shots to compete for wins.”

There are divergent feelings within the two RKF Racing teams. Keselowski has a victory at Darlington and is locked into the postseason. It was his first since 2021 and first since aligning with Jack Roush.

“To some degree, I feel a little bit of personal weight off my shoulders,” Keselowski said. “But until we get both cars locked into the playoffs, we still have a big mountain to climb. Obviously, we’ve been very close to that with Chris [Buescher] and the No. 17 car with a number of second-place finishes and a really good run last week at Sonoma.

“I’m eager to punch that through and have both cars locked in.”

The weight that left Keselowski landed on Buescher’s shoulders. The driver of RFK’s No. 17 is just above the playoff cutline by 32 points heading into Sunday’s Iowa Corn 350.

“It’s just a part of our sport,” Buescher said. “You reset those bags on your shoulders as soon as the year concludes in Phoenix, and you start all over again. We’ve been competitive to Brad’s point. One of the biggest goals I had going through the offseason was, ‘How do we make sure the first eight races are way more competitive than where we were last season?’”

In hindsight, Buescher & Co. gave up a lot of time going through that, but their ceiling is much higher now. He came up short in a few races in heartbreaking fashion, which, had they gone differently, could have been potential victories. There was contact with Tyler Reddick inside 10 laps to go at Darlington Raceway while he led, and he was on the losing end of NASCAR’s closest ever finish at Kansas Speedway.

Buescher described some of his chances at victory as being close but ending in “some catastrophic ways.” He has three top-three finishes on the year.

“We’ve got to capitalize and conclude one of these things,” Buescher said. “The bigger goal at the start of the season was how…we make sure that we’re locked in with a chance to win a championship [and] not just participate. We’re in a good spot, but we’re not in a great spot yet. We’ve got to go through these next handful of races and make all the pieces fit together and click right and, certainly, there has been some frustration on a lot of parts of it. But we’re doing our best to not let that continuously build up and get worse.”

Story originally appeared on Racer