AVONDALE, Ariz. – As Joey Logano headed for his second Cup championship Sunday, the driver who paved the way for Logano’s arrival at Team Penske saw his season go up in smoke. Literally.
A fire ended Brad Keselowski’s race at Phoenix Raceway, leaving him with a 35th-place finish and completing his first winless Cup season since 2010.
This year was going to be a challenge for Keselowski after he left Team Penske — where he won a Cup title, 34 races and convinced team owner Roger Penske to hire Logano in 2013 — to become an owner/driver of RFK Racing this season.
Only 14 drivers in NASCAR history have had more consecutive seasons with at least one win than Keselowski’s 11, but the former champion said the day before the season finale that the end of the streak would not be devastating. He had other priorities.
“If I’m able to do what I want with this company — and we’re on the track to do it — it’s not going to mean a damn thing to me,” Keselowski said of the streak. “Part of the risk of taking the opportunity and making the move I did is giving up some of those stats, which feel good in the moment, but 10-20 years from now, I’m not going to remember or care about those things.
“What I’ll remember and care about is whether I was able to take this company where it was a year ago to where I want it to be in the next year or so. That’s what is going to matter.”
While Keselowski didn’t win, teammate Chris Buescher did, giving the organization its first Cup victory since 2017. Buescher had a career-high 10 top-10 finishes, including his win at Bristol in the playoffs, but also failed to finish six races. Keselowski had six top 10s and failed to finish three races.
Neither driver finished in the top 20 in points. Buescher was 21st and Keselowski was 24th.
Keselowski was penalized 100 points in March after Atlanta for modification to a single-sourced piece and was disqualified after last month’s Martinsville race because his car was below minimum weight. The disqualification cost him 41 points. Without those two penalties, Keselowski would have finished 19th in the driver standings.
“I definitely didn’t accomplish as much as I wanted to, but looking realistically at the challenge, probably somewhat on schedule,” Keselowski said.
“I think we’ve got a lot of things coming over the offseason. … We’ve got a lot of things we’re doing to progress that have come over the last 6-12 months of understanding where the company is at and making the moves accordingly to get both race teams where they can compete for wins.”
Keselowski said his first year as a Cup owner has been one of much work.
“It is what it should be. Hard,” he said. “And I appreciate that challenge.”
Keselowski was asked to compare the challenges of owning a truck team, which did from 2008-17 to a Cup operation.
“It’s similar (to truck team challenges), it’s just every check has another zero on it,” he said. “Things that cost 50 grand, cost 500 grand, things that cost 500 grand cost 5 million.
“More expensive is the biggest thing but all the same values and principles hold true of how you treat your people. How you develop your car. How your interact on a daily basis with company, team, sponsors and all the stakeholders. So the fundamentals are all the same just a little more expensive and a little more competition.”