RFK Racing searching for sustained success entering 2023 season
Brad Keselowski sees things daily that make him feel good about the progress of Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing.
And he sees things daily that make him frustrated about the progress of Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing.
Such is the life of a co-owner of a race team, which Keselowski became after the 2021 season as he left Team Penske to join Roush Fenway as a co-owner and driver.
Now a year into being a team owner, Keselowski is conflicted regarding the measure of progress.
“I probably have some of those feelings every day at RFK — a little bit of a mixture,” he said about feeling good and frustrated at the same time.
“I think that’s a healthy sign that at least we’re getting somewhere and we have the drive to do it.”
Keselowski went winless for the first time since his first full season as a Cup driver in 2010. He indicated he didn’t end 2022 hoping to start 2023 as soon as possible so he could try to get back to victory lane.
“I’m not in a particular rush to get the season started because we have a lot of really active projects through the winter and fall that are based off of key learnings of our first year together,” he said.
“And I want to see those mature.”
Keselowski discusses progress with RFK
Brad Keselowski describes the progress being made at Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing and what goes into the process.
RFK did win a race as Chris Buescher captured the victory at Bristol in an event where Keselowski appeared on his way to victory until he had a tire issue. The victory was the first for RFK since July 2017 and the first at a non-superspeedway since June 2014.
Just how different would the offseason have been if Buescher had not won at Bristol?
“I don’t think it makes a big difference on what our feelings are,” Buescher said. “But I sure wouldn’t give it back and try to find out the other way.”
Buescher admitted the mood would have changed slightly going into the offseason without that trophy.
“That was obviously the highlight for us,” Buescher said. “But I would say that we had speed and the opportunity to win many times throughout the season at a lot of different styles of racetracks.”
Matt McCall, crew chief for Keselowski, agreed.
“There was enough signs of improvements at some other tracks that it was a similar momentum and culture shift that we’re getting back to where we need to be and want to be as a company,” McCall said.
It is one thing to believe you can win. It is another to have won to add that confidence.
That’s what the Bristol victory brought to the organization.
“The overall mood, we would have felt very similar about,” Buescher said. “But we have a trophy to say so, now. We have something to sit there and stare out and say, ‘Look, it really did work.’”
Buescher shares excitement on RFK’s upcoming season
Chris Buescher says Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing is in a far better place than it was last year.
Buescher crew chief Scott Graves said he has finished second in enough races that getting that trophy was important.
“I know for me there would probably be a little less confidence if we didn’t have that,” Graves said. “But it wasn’t a one-off experience, either. … There were a lot of races where we were in the running, same with [Keselowski] at the end of the year.
“Even without that win, we were on an upswing of performance and feel like we had a good spot going into this year.”
With neither driver winning during the regular season, neither made the playoffs. Buescher finished 21st in the standings, and Keselowski was 24th.
They both showed speed in many races late in the year, but the results weren’t always there.
“We had a really strong fall at RFK,” Keselowski said. “We started to really show some results. We were able to mature a lot of our investments in our people and equipment.
“And [we] started to apply lessons from earlier in the season.”
Buescher said the organization is in a much better place this year than a year ago, that it took a while for a new group to get a grasp on the new Next Gen car while also learning about their new co-workers.
“It took a lot of energy to get everybody in place, get that chemistry rolling,” Buescher said. “Ultimately, the beginning of the season, I didn’t think we were under-prepared, but we did not perform as good as we had hoped.
“We have notes now, and we have a really good idea of why we missed [it at] some of those races.”
That was no surprise to Buescher. He expected the first third of the season to almost be a throw-away.
“We had a really strong season,” Buescher said. “We had hoped for more. But realistically it was a great start. We’ve just got to keep going and keep building on it.”
McCall said it is hard to judge the progress of the organization by comparing it to where it expected to be a year into the transition. It took RFK longer than other teams to understand how to make speed in the Next Gen car.
Keselowski, Buescher talk Bristol win
Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher describe the impact of Buescher’s win at Bristol as a confidence-builder throughout the offseason.
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So to answer the question that Keselowski addressed about if the team is where it should be after one year, McCall said it’s pretty much on par.
“I don’t think we knew starting the season where we stacked up,” McCall said. “The first couple of races, it was going OK, and then it was dismal.
“We still have a lot of time, a lot of work to put in to get where we want to be.”
Thinking Out Loud
NASCAR knew that there would be some angst from fans just by hearing the word “muffler.” But it also knows that for the potential of more stadium races or street courses, cars need to have a muffler system.
Being at the recent testing and listening to the cars with mufflers, I think most fans will be good with the way they sound.
Not all fans. For some, the louder the cars, the better. And it is a little softer of a rumble. So for some, it won’t be good enough.
But for the majority of fans, especially when there are 36 of these cars on the track, it will be loud enough for the sound to be part of what makes fans enjoy the race experience.
For those who bring friends to the track, it might also provide an opportunity for a short chat or just might not be as much of a jolt to those new to the racing experience.
So using the mufflers at the Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Sunday (heats begin at 5 p.m. ET on FOX) is a good thing — as long as they don’t create too hot of a cockpit. That for sure is going to need to be monitored as it was an issue at the test.
Stat of the Day
The winner of the Clash has gone on to win the championship eight times, including Joey Logano in 2022.
They Said It
“I visited Hendrick Motorsports, and I have to say I was blown away at the facility. I’ve raced for some of the best Formula 1 teams in the world, and it still surprised me how good the facility was, the intrinsic detail that goes into everything they do within the team. I knew they would be developing and producing a fantastic car for us to race at Le Mans.” —Former F1 champ Jenson Button, who will be among the Hendrick driver lineup at Le Mans this year.
Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass, and sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.
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