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April 3, 2024

Brad Keselowski trusts process, aims to help RFK gain on Gibbs’ speed

Brad Keselowski leans on the pit wall during a break in the action at Phoenix Raceway.
James Armas

Brad Keselowski sits in an unfamiliar position these days, with a winless drought that stretches nearly three full years — a span of 105 NASCAR Cup Series races. It’s an unaccustomed spot for a veteran driver who had a streak of at least one victory each season for 11 consecutive years.

Times are different for Keselowski, who was in his last season driving the No. 2 Ford for Team Penske when he recorded his most recent Cup Series win — April 25, 2021, at Talladega Superspeedway. He’s now in his third season as the driver and part-owner of RFK Racing, and while the scope of his roles has changed, Keselowski says his approach has not.

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“I just focus on the process, not the outcome,” Keselowski said Tuesday in a roundtable discussion at the NASCAR Productions Facility. “I’m focused on doing all the right things, trying to help everybody I can and obviously execute on my end, and when I’m not driving the race car, being a servant leader to help everybody else build the best they can. Then you kind of let the results speak for themselves. So I’m just really process-focused, and in that light, you don’t get too high or too low.”

Keselowski’s next opportunity comes Sunday at Martinsville Speedway, site of Sunday’s Cook Out 400 (3 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM) and the second straight short track on the Cup Series schedule. Keselowski is a two-time Martinsville winner, and he enters the race weekend with top-10 finishes in three of his last four starts.

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The process that Keselowski has relied on paid dividends in the stretch run of last season, with teammate Chris Buescher prevailing three times in a five-week span and providing both teams under the RFK banner with playoff momentum. Rediscovering that performance standard and catching up to the early speed shown by Joe Gibbs Racing — winners of three of the Cup Series’ last four races — is the current target.

“Well, week to week that obviously varies. Right now I’m focused on Martinsville and what it’s going to take to have the lap time and speed to compete with the Gibbs cars,” Keselowski says. “Right now, I think they’re dominant. They’ve won, is it four of the last five or something to that effect? And they’ve won them all honest. They haven’t really kind of stole a race. They’ve had the speed throughout the whole race with one of their cars to just control it, and that’s where I want to be. I want to see our team in the spot where we have the speed and control races.

“I thought toward the middle, the end of last year, we had that a couple times, and Chris was able to capitalize with a win, and I wasn’t able to capitalize with a win, but I was able to score a lot of points and make a strong playoff push. So that’s where we want to be. We’re not as strong right now as we were at that time, but I feel like it’s on the tip of our tongue and I want to go get that.”

Last Sunday’s event at Richmond Raceway offered encouragement, with Ford teams placing five drivers in the top 12. Team Penske’s Joey Logano led that charge in second place, and Keselowski did his part with an eighth-place effort.

MORE: Power Rankings: Keselowski up one spot

While Ford teams are still sorting out the nuances of the new Mustang Dark Horse early in its first season of competition, Keselowski noted how well JGR drivers — particularly Christopher Bell — have fared with new Toyota bodies that also debuted this year.

“I thought that the Fords executed really well. I don’t think they had the raw speed the Gibbs cars had,” Keselowski said in summing up Richmond’s results. “The 20 car (Bell), the last two or three races, has had significantly more raw speed than the field, and he’s been able to win one of them but he probably should have won the last two. That’s the level that I think … if we had our execution with their speed, we’d be winning multiple races.”

Win or lose, RFK Racing has already experienced a measure of growth this year, adding David Ragan to the roster in the No. 60 Ford for the Daytona 500 and fielding three cars in a Cup Series race for the first time since 2016. That start represented a one-off — so far — for RFK’s “Stage 60” initiative. As for a more sustained expansion effort to perhaps field three full-time teams, Keselowski says a handful of factors would need to converge to make it happen.

“I mean, we would need the right kind of storm to brew with charter availability and partner availability,” Keselowski said. “I think there’s some opportunities with some talent out there, but the other two pieces really have to come first.”