Brad Keselowski reflects on 2022 penalty: ‘One of the best things to ever happen to us’

Brad Keselowski stands on pit road.
Chris Graythen
Getty Images

HAMPTON, Ga. — Nearly one year after RFK Racing and Brad Keselowski’s No. 6 Ford team was levied an L2-level penalty, the veteran driver-owner reflected back on the incident with a seasoned outlook.

“It was tough,” Keselowski told media Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. “Immediate emotions are to be frustrated and angry, but I don’t feel that way today. In fact, when I saw NASCAR a couple weeks ago, we had a car get inspected after Daytona, I made a comment to them and I said, ‘Thank you. It’s one of the best things to ever happen to us.’ We came out of it better. It was good for the industry.”

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RFK Racing’s penalty following last year’s spring race at Atlanta set the organization back 100 driver points and 100 owner points, among other fines and suspensions, serving as the first major penalty of NASCAR’s Next Gen era. Since then, only Front Row Motorsports’s No. 34 team (with driver Michael McDowell), Kaulig Racing’s No. 31 team (with Justin Haley) and all four Hendrick Motorsports teams have received this level of penalty — though the latter five are currently appealing their penalties.

Nonetheless, Keselowski has focused forward and the organization has improved its on-track numbers tremendously, perhaps jump-started by Chris Buescher’s dominant victory in last fall’s Bristol Night Race.

MORE: Look back at Buescher’s Bristol triumph

Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher stand side-by-side.
Meg Oliphant | Getty Images

Heading into Sunday’s race at Atlanta, both cars sit in the top 10 in points through five weeks in the 2023 season — a significant upward trend from past seasons’ performance. Keselowski also leads all Ford drivers with 685 laps run inside the top 10.

So, from the outside looking in, it is clear there is a different energy and a different philosophy — and Keselowski agrees.

“From our perspective, it changed our culture inside of the company to where we had better behaviors,” Keselowski said. “I thought it set a tone for the industry.

“Again, I can’t speak for Hendrick, but with our issues. I think I made a few comments a month later about the importance of penalties in the garage. They serve a purpose. I think it’s really easy — and I’ve fallen victim to this as well — to look at NASCAR as the boogieman. In a lot of ways, they’re trying to help us and trying to help the sport and make sure that it can be healthy.”

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After a strong effort in Saturday’s qualifying session, Keselowski will roll off fourth in Sunday’s Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 (3 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), his best starting position this season.