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March 16, 2024

Maintaining positive momentum remains primary objective for RFK Racing


Chris Buescher, left, and Brad Keselowski, right, look on before a NASCAR Cup Series race.
Meg Oliphant
Getty Images

BRISTOL, Tenn. — At first glance, Brad Keselowski’s 17th-place starting position and Chris Buescher’s 34th-place start for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway might not look appealing.

But make no mistake, the organization, not even three years removed from its rebrand from Roush Fenway Racing, remains on an upward trend, especially after a successful run at Phoenix Raceway last weekend and before Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

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“I thought at Phoenix our teams looked really similar. Atlanta, we looked pretty similar. Daytona, we looked pretty similar,” Brad Keselowski told NASCAR.com. “We didn’t look very similar at Vegas. I thought the 17 was a bit stronger than the 6 car was there, and those things come and go for various reasons. There’s not one thing on any given week. You want the crew chiefs to have a little bit of freedom to do what they want to do with their engineers and try different things, and when that gets too far apart for too long, you try to rein it back in.

“There’s an ebb and flow to that, but for the most part, I feel like we’re pretty close to each other.”

Last weekend’s result at Phoenix Raceway was more than each driver’s first top-five finish of the 2024 campaign. With Buescher’s runner-up finish and Keselowski’s fourth-place result in the desert, the occasion marked the first time both drivers finished inside the top five together since the regular-season finale last August at Daytona International Speedway, where Buescher and Keselowski enthralled the Florida crowd with a 1-2 finish, respectively.

For Buescher — who compiled a career-best three Cup wins last season and advanced all the way to the Round of 8 — the prosperity as an individual driver and as a two-driver team has been a gradual build.

“Right now, it’s success early on in the season,” Buescher told NASCAR.com Saturday at the track. “It took us half a year to get where we needed to be last year and got to win races and be competitive most every week.

“We need to be there now. I think that we have been very competitive. We’ve been able to lead laps at three of the four events so far and finally got a solid, respectable finish for the work we did last week in Phoenix and didn’t get caught up in an accident.”

Next comes Bristol, where both RFK drivers have found past success … and on concrete, to boot. Keselowski is a three-time winner at “The Last Great Colosseum,” with his most recent win there coming in 2020 during the last spring race on the racing surface we’ll see Sunday. Buescher’s short-track prowess in the Next Gen era has also been apparent at Bristol, winning during the 2022 fall running under the lights at the half-mile.

This track record of Bristol success, coupled with last weekend’s Phoenix result, certainly doesn’t hurt going into Sunday’s contest.

“It’s not a bad thing, that’s for sure,” Keselowski said. “I wish we would’ve got the results that both of us deserved at Atlanta, and if we had done that, we’d be already checking that box off, but you know, it’s kind of wishing in one hand. But I was happy with where we ended up last week. Good result, good finish and certainly bodes well for going into Bristol, one of our better tracks.”

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For Buescher, the goal is to build on recent success, which, in turn, would allow for better contending opportunities. For Keselowski, the goal is to show more raw speed and maintain more of a presence at the front of the field. This raw speed, perhaps, can even be the remedy for snapping the 2012 champ’s current 102-race winless streak in the Cup Series.

However, both goals emphasize the same checkbox: maintaining that upward trend.

“We’re on track to do a much better job and be in contention,” Buescher said. “But really, I think for our 17 group, I’m looking at Phoenix as a singular race to really be able to dive into and get a sense of where we’re at fully, just because we’ve had so much other stuff going on to get the year started.”

“We kind of went from irrelevant to relevant to kind of on the fringe of being contenders,” Keselowski said. “And so, we just need to keep pushing to firmly get the grasp in that contender category.”

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