After rebuilding RFK Racing, Brad Keselowski makes a triumphant return to Victory Lane

Brad Keselowski ended a 110-race winless streak and scored his first win with RFK Racing in the Goodyear 400 on Sunday (May 12) at Darlington Raceway. It was the exclamation point of a long rise that not only regained prominence for Keselowski, but also for RFK, which once again emerged as one of NASCAR's most formidable teams.

RFK – then known as Roush Racing – was a dominant force in the late '90s and mid-2000s as it competed for wins and championships, winning back-to-back titles in 2003 with Matt Kenseth and 2004 with Kurt Busch. Other drivers like Mark Martin, Jeff Burton and Carl Edwards were all superstars of the team.

They were tied for the lead with Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing, but at some point things started to fall apart. The team became a two-car operation, a remnant of its former performance glory. They were at one point the largest team, with five drivers competing for them, before NASCAR reduced the maximum number of cars a team could field to four.

Greg Biffle was asked what, in his view, caused this downward spiral while he was there and on his way home.

“It took an infusion of something to turn things around,” Biffle said. “Unfortunately, I had to drop out for competitive reasons, and Brad was the guy who came in and sort of shook up the apple cart to get people to think outside the box. You can see this constant progress, the last few weeks have been proof of it.

“It's so hard to say, we've been in these meetings week after week. My frustration was that you have to recognize that there is a problem and not try to convince yourself that you'll be better the next week and keep doing the same thing.” You have to make these painful decisions, that something has to change. Hope is great, but action is needed to make change.”

Keselowski became a Cup Series champion for Penske in 2012 and ultimately left the team to become the owner of the newly formed RFK Racing in 2022. Given RFK's performance, many fans and industry personnel questioned why he would move from a competitive team to a fresh start to a place that is a shell of his former self.

“I've heard from some fans that I can't believe you're giving up your career, and then you think, maybe they're right,” Keselowski said. “But on the other hand, I looked at the sport and thought that if I dig deep here, I can get this thing where it needs to be.”

Keselowski also knew what he was giving up early on as he watched his former teammates Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney win championships in 2022 and 2023, respectively, even though he knew the opportunity or second title would have come his way in those years can. He commented on the journey with the team and experiencing these moments.

“There were a lot of profound moments,” Keselowski said. “That was part of the journey. They're not all fun. In fact, many of them are not fun. But it's part of the journey. The same thing happened when Joey and Blaney won the championship last year and the year before, and they're right. But I'm not upset about that. I'm happy for these guys. As I said, I still have a meaningful relationship with Joey and Blaney and am happy to see them succeed.”

Chris Buescher appears to be carrying the RFK torch and has won every race up to this point. And although it took a long time for Keselowski to reach the winning streak with RFK, he had nothing but praise for his teammate's achievements.

“There is a natural comparison,” Keselowski said. “Everyone likes to make comparisons. I get it. Some of these comparisons are fair, others are not. I think Chris has done an excellent job putting himself in a position to win races and take advantage of the good opportunities that come with it.

“I thought when he won Michigan last year it was a perfect example of that. He put himself in a great position, just worked hard, didn't have the fastest car and won the race. That is amazing.”

RFK has finished second in every race except Dover Motor Speedway since Keselowski finished second at Texas Motor Speedway in April. After losing by a thousandth of a second at Kansas Speedway the previous week, it was fitting that RFK won the very next week.

“Many second places, close decisions, [in] This sport second doesn't do you any good. “Wins are really everything,” Keselowski said.

Before Keselowski, David Ragan was the last driver to win in the No. 6 car, doing so at Daytona International Speedway in July 2011. The No. 6 car took its first Cup victory at Darlington since Martin's victory in September 1993, renewing RFK's legacy. Keselowski commented on this performance and the time since the win.

“It never comes as quickly as you want it to,” Keselowski said. “It is a long, painful process that requires profound effort at all levels, be it driver level, organizational level or pit crew level. But the effort is worth it when you experience moments like this.”

His teammate Buescher was desperate to win, but contact with Tyler Reddick ended his day after he suffered a puncture. While one driver celebrates, the other succumbs. Buescher praised his team owner after he made comments about his situation.

“There’s a fight going on on this team right now,” Buescher said. “No single-track accident will take that away from us. The speed is there, Brad wins right there, that's huge. Congratulations to Brad on this huge win, that’s great.”

Keselowski isn't done yet and wants more. He won his only title in 2012 and he is definitely looking to the future and believes he can still achieve a lot.

“I want to do a lot more,” Keselowski said. “Thirty-six wins is great. It’s a nice statistic, but I want to win a lot more.”

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