Despite Brad Keselowski telling a certain publication (us!) back in February that he wasn't necessarily buying the whole "Next Gen will bridge the gap" narrative, NASCAR's Next Gen car has certainly ... bridged the gap ... through the first three months of the season.
Ross Chastain, who couldn't buy a Cup win the first few years of his career, has won twice for Trackhouse Racing.
Chase Briscoe, who had a forgettable rookie season in 2021, came out of nowhere to win his first Cup race at Phoenix.
Erik Jones has been fast for Petty GMS. Justin Haley has lived in the top-10 for Kaulig Racing. Chris Buescher — Keselowski's employee and RFK teammate — already has a pole and three top-10s this year, while also winning his Daytona Duel back in February.
Speaking of Buescher ...
"Yeah, it's been a pretty solid start," he said during a call with the News-Journal earlier this week. "Man, it's been neat having Brad come over, seeing his energy and his drive ... it's really reminded me a lot of Jack in a lot of ways. It's cool to see Jack's legacy and Brad continuing to build it."
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"Jack," of course, is Jack Roush — the Hall of Fame owner of what is now Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing.
Keselowski joined RFK this season as a part-owner and full-time driver, teaming up with Buescher as the two attempt to get RFK back in Victory Lane (non-Duel Victory Lane, that is) for the first time since 2017.
So far, the results have been mixed.
Some good, some bad, and, as Buescher admits, plenty of learning.
"We're making some good headway," he said. "But we're not where we want to be yet. It's really hard to get to that place in our sport, too, because unless you're winning every week you're not gonna be happy with where you're at. But it's been a really solid beginning to the year."
Of course, when you bring in a former Cup champion who's won 35 career races, you're bound to get better, right?
"He's very detail-oriented," Buescher said of his new teammate (and boss). "That's been a pretty big-hitter, just working on the small pieces in the organization and the process. Cleaning everything up and making sure that we're precise.
"In my opinion, having his (Keselowski's) manufacturing business, and then building up his truck team a few years back, I think it gave him a lot of insight on what needs to happen to be successful. Brad's had his hands in multiple aspects of what's going on back here ... really, everything."
Still, there have been hiccups.
While Buescher has those three top-10s, Keselowski's best finish was ninth at the Daytona 500. He led 67 laps in that race, but has led just three since, while also finishing 18th or worse seven times.
And then there was the 100-point penalty Kez was handed after the Atlanta race — one of the biggest punishments NASCAR has ever handed down.
Because of that, Keselowski currently sits 31st in the points and enters the summer months in must-win mode if he wants to make the NASCAR playoffs.
While Buescher's situation isn't nearly as dire (he's currently just 31 points outside the playoff bubble right now), the pressure to perform is certainly starting to build at RFK headquarters — especially with the influx of new faces up front this season.
"There's always pressure, and we'd be lying if we said we hadn't taken notice," Buescher said. "This Next Gen car has been a pretty big re-setter, and some teams have done better than others. We've done a good job in a lot of areas, but we still have some things to figure out.
"We're in the weeds right now and focusing pretty hard to climb some more here. Ford teams in general right now are playing a little bit of catchup, too. We have to continue to improve."
NASCAR on TV this weekend
Don't be surprised if Buescher and RFK keep showing progress Sunday at Kansas.
Buescher finished eighth in this race last season, while Keselowski has two wins and 13 top-10s in 24 Kansas starts. .
Here's the full weekend schedule:
Noon, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Qualifying, FS1
2 p.m., ARCA Menards Series: Dutch Boy 150 at Kansas Speedway, FS1
5 p.m., NASCAR Cup Series: Qualifying, FS2
8 p.m., NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Heart of America 200 at Kansas Speedway, FS1
3 p.m., NASCAR Cup Series: AdventHealth 400 at Kansas Speedway, FS1
This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Pressure builds at RFK as Keselowski, Buescher try to get Roush a win