RFK Racing is looking for sustained success entering the 2023 season

Brad Keselowski sees things every day that make him feel good about the progress of Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing.

And he sees things every day that make him frustrated with Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing’s progress.

Such is the life of a part-owner of a race team, which Keselowski became after the 2021 season, when he left Team Penske to join Roush Fenway as a part-owner and driver.

After a year as the team’s owner, Keselowski is conflicted about the measure of progress.

“I probably have some of those feelings every day at RFK — a little bit of a mix,” he said of feeling good and disappointed at the same time.

“I think it’s a healthy sign that at least we’re getting somewhere and we have the drive to do it.”

Keselowski went winless for the first time since his first full season as a Cup driver in 2010. He indicated that he has not finished 2022 with the hope of starting 2023 as soon as possible so he can try to back to the winning line.

“I’m not in a big rush to start the season because we have a lot of really active projects in the winter and fall that build on the key lessons from our first year together,” he said.

“And I want to see them mature.”

Keselowski discusses progress with RFK

Brad Keselowski describes the progress made at Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing and what goes into the process.

RFK did win a race as Chris Buescher took the win at Bristol in an event where Keselowski appeared on his way to victory until he suffered a tire problem. The win was RFK’s first since July 2017 and first at a non-Superspeedway since June 2014.

How different would the offseason have been had Buescher not won at Bristol?

“I don’t think there’s a big difference in our feelings,” Buescher said. “But I certainly wouldn’t take it back and try to find out the other way.”

Buescher admitted that the mood would have changed slightly at the end of the season without this trophy.

“That was obviously the highlight for us,” Buescher said. “But I would say we had the speed and the opportunity to win a lot of times throughout the season on a lot of different styles of racetracks.”

Matt McCall, Keselowski’s crew chief, agreed.

“There were enough signs of improvements in some other tracks that this was a similar momentum and culture change that we’re getting back to where we need to be and want to be as a company,” McCall said.

It’s one thing to believe you can win. It’s another to win to add that confidence.

This brought the organization the victory in Bristol.

“The overall vibe we were going to feel very similar about,” Buescher said. “But we have a trophy to say it now. We have something to sit there and stare at and say, ‘Look, it really worked.'”

Buescher shares his excitement for RFK’s upcoming season

Buescher shares his excitement for RFK's upcoming season

Chris Buescher says Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing is in a much better position than it was last year.

Buescher crew chief Scott Graves said he has finished second in enough races that getting this trophy is important.

“I know for me, there probably would have been a little less confidence if we didn’t have that,” Graves said. “But it wasn’t a one-off experience either… There were many competitions we participated in, same with [Keselowski] in the end of the year.

“Even without this win, we’ve been on an upswing and feel like we’re in a good place this year.”

Since neither driver won during the regular season, neither made the playoffs. Buescher finished 21st in the standings and Keselowski was 24th.

Both showed speed in many races late in the year, but the results weren’t always there.

“We had a really strong decline in RFK,” Keselowski said. “We started to really show some results. We have been able to grow many of our investments in our people and equipment.

“And [we] started to apply the lessons from earlier in the season.”

Buescher said the organization is in a much better place this year than it was a year ago, that it took some time for a new group to familiarize themselves with the new next-generation car while also learning about their new colleagues.

“It took a lot of energy to get everybody in place, to get that chemistry going,” Buescher said. “At the end of the season, I didn’t think we were underprepared, but we didn’t perform as well as we hoped.

“Now we have notes and we have a really good idea why we missed [it at] some of these races.”

This was no surprise to Buescher. He expected the first third of the season to be pretty much thrown away.

“We had a really strong season,” Buescher said. “We were hoping for more. But realistically, it was a great start. We just have to keep going and build on it.”

McCall said it’s difficult to gauge the organization’s progress by comparing it to where it expects to be a year after the transition. It took RFK longer than other teams to figure out how to get speed in the next-gen car.

Keselowski, Buescher talk about Bristol’s win

Keselowski, Buescher talk about Bristol's win

Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher describe the impact of Buescher’s win in Bristol as building confidence throughout the offseason.

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So to answer the question Keselowski asked about whether the team is where it needs to be a year from now, McCall said it’s almost there.

“I don’t think we knew at the beginning of the season where we ranked,” McCall said. “The first few races were going well and then it was dark.

We still have a lot of time, a lot of work to do to get where we want to be.

Thinking out loud

NASCAR knew there would be some anger from fans just hearing the word “muffler.” But it also knows that for the potential of more racing on stadiums or street tracks, the cars must have a silencing system.

Having been to the recent testing and listening to the cars with mufflers, I think most fans will be happy with the way they sound.

Not all fans. For some, the louder the cars, the better. And it’s a little softer like a rumble. So for some it won’t be good enough.

But for most fans, especially when there are 36 of these cars on the track, it will be loud enough for the sound to be part of what makes the fans enjoy the racing experience.

For those taking friends to the track, it can also provide an opportunity for a quick chat, or simply not be as jarring for those new to the racing experience.

So using the Clash’s exhausts at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Sunday (heats begin at 5 p.m. ET on FOX) is a good thing — as long as they don’t create an overly hot cockpit. This will certainly need to be monitored as it was an issue in the test.

Social focus

Stats of the day

The Clash winner has won the championship eight times, including Joey Logano in 2022.

They said it

“I visited Hendrick Motorsports and I have to say I was blown away by the facility. I’ve raced for some of the best F1 teams in the world and it still surprised me how good the facility was, the inherent detail that goes into everything they do in the team. I knew they would design and build a fantastic car for us to race at Le Mans.” —Former F1 champion Jenson Button, who will be among Hendrick’s drivers at Le Mans this year.

Bob Pokras covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, working at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrassand register for FOX Sports NASCAR Bulletin with Bob Pokras.

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