Brad Keselowski of Rochester Hills ready for NASCAR career as owner and driver in 2022
Loudon, New Hampshire – Admitting that it was “hard to walk away” from a NASCAR career almost entirely devoted to Roger Penske’s driving, Rochester Hills native Brad Keselowski is optimistic for a fresh start in 2022 – as a driver and owner.
Keselowski is set to race for Roush Fenway Racing in 2022 and the team has a “major announcement” scheduled for Tuesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame to formalize the signing. About 120 miles from Fenway Park, Keselowski told New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday that the time had come to break up with Team Penske after nearly 12 years in the No.2 car, 34 Cup wins and the 2012 championship.
“Certainly everyone aspires that where they go to work, things will work out where you can stay forever and continue to grow,” Keselowski said. “Life has other plans. There is no bitterness about it.
A sticking point with Penske was Keselowski’s desire to own a stake in a Cup team. Keselowski fielded his eponymous team in the NASCAR Truck Series for a decade and the desire to be a part of a team in the elite Cup Series has never gone away. He will have this chance at RFR.
“I really like the idea of ownership and management and seeing people grow,” he said. “The idea of building teams and seeing people grow and succeed together, I take away a lot. “
After: Austin Cindric to replace Brad Keselowski in Team Penske’s No.2 car for 2022 season
Keselowski had an extended contract negotiation a year ago that only earned him a one-year extension and a pay cut. Penske said last week he would have extended Keselowski’s contract by two to three years if the property had not been part of the negotiations. A perennial championship contender Keselowski has one win this season, 35 in his career, and joins a once proud side that hasn’t won a Cup race since 2017.
Keselowski wants to right the ship on a crumbling squad long past their championship heyday.
“I think right now there is a lot of demand for established drivers who can win races and that demand remains,” said Keselowski.
Penske said last week that the move was simply “a business decision”. Keselowski, 37, insisted there was no grudge.
“He’s been really good to me over the years,” Keselowski said. “Sad to leave this situation. Excited about the way forward.
His departure has resulted in a reshuffle at Penske that will see 2020 Xfinity Series champion Austin Cindric, the 22-year-old son of Penske team president Tim Cindric, slide into the No.2 Ford in 2022. Cindric, as to to him, was to replace Matt. DiBenedetto in the # 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford. This seat will now go to Xfinity series pilot Harrison Burton. Wood Brothers and Penske operate as partners.
DiBenedetto, winless in 233 career starts, was crushed, he couldn’t keep his run and posted a nine-minute video on social media where he expressed his frustration at losing on the 21st.
DiBenedetto had known since last year that he would lose the post-season seat to Cindric. But the domino effect of Keselowski leaving Penske and Cindric taking Car 2 made DiBenedetto hope he would keep his car.
“With Brad leaving obviously, OK, opportunity,” DiBenedetto said on Sunday. “I was like, cool, to open up there. Let’s go build this team.
He got the call last week: Take your tools elsewhere.
“Our team never clicked,” said DiBenedetto. “We worked hard to try to get there. It just wasn’t. No one is at fault. I must have a good relationship with my team leader. Everything must click. It just wasn’t there.
With open seats scarce in 2022, DiBenedetto said he doesn’t have a bite to eat for next season yet.
“Really nervous,” he said. “This news was difficult. Driving for the Wood Brothers is special. They are family. This timing is working so badly. We have finally brought our team to where it needed to be. It took longer than it should have. I was honest about it. I’ll take a fault for that.
Team Penske driver Ryan Blaney said Burton and Cindric are entering the series at the right time with NASCAR ready to unveil a new car for 2022.
“This is probably the best time to be a rookie and come in,” said Blaney. “Everyone is starting over. I don’t think the learning curve is as high as a rookie coming in this year and trying to learn these cars. Everyone will learn the new ones.