Through the Field: Make the Jump
The worst-kept secret in NASCAR was finally revealed last week as it was announced that 2012 Cup Series champion driver Brad Keselowski was leaving Team Penske, his home since 2010, at the end of 2021 and joining Roush Fenway Racing (RFR) as a driver and co-owner.
Now, if these teams were at the success levels of most of their history in the sport, this team change would be at worst a lateral move, and, until about 2009 or so, an upgrade. But hard times have fallen on RFR of late.
The team hasn’t won a race since 2017, hasn’t won a non-restrictor plate race since June of 2014 and has gone from fielding five full-time, successful cars down to two mid-pack cars in the last decade or so.
But, with Keselowski, a former owner of successful entries in the Truck Series, entering the fold, there’s great hope for the future of RFR. The group will be trying to harness lightning in a bottle just as Tony Stewart did when he left Joe Gibbs Racing after 2009 to become a co-owner of Haas CNC Racing, which was renamed Stewart-Haas Racing.
While it appears Stewart had much more control over that team’s operations than Keselowski will at first, the team went from a bottom-of-the-barrel Cup team, worse than RFR has ever been, to winning a title with Stewart in 2011 and another with Kevin Harvick in 2014.
The dividends almost surely won’t be paying off that quickly for Keselowski and RFR, even though the series is switching to a new “Next Gen” car for 2022. And Keselowski isn’t getting any younger, having turned 37 in February.
This begs the question: Has Keselowski lost his mind?
Likely, the start of his driving career at RFR may not go smoothly, especially considering he’s had more poor runs in the No. 2 car this year than in most others. Penske is going to continue to be at the elite of the sport for years to come; Will Keselowski and the rest of the RFR ownership group ever get anywhere close to that?
Here’s the short answer – it doesn’t matter.
Keselowski’s family has been involved in racing his entire life. He’s has been driving full-time in one of the top levels of NASCAR since 2008 and has long said he still wants to be a part of the sport when he’s done driving. Roger Penske didn’t offer him that opportunity; Jack Roush did.
It will take a lot of hard work, and maybe Keselowski won’t win another title or even another race after making this move. But for the future of the team, the sport and himself, it was the right decision.
Keselowski decided to make the jump – a long and difficult one – and regardless of how it ends up, he made the right choice doing so.
Our lives are not terribly dissimilar. We face opportunities all the time in life where we can decide whether to make the jump or not. To choose a side to travel down at a fork in the road, or whether to leave something behind for good for a chance at true happiness and greatness.
Obviously, don’t make any rash decisions. I’m sure Keselowski thought long and hard before making his jump. But don’t be afraid to take a lesson from the all-time great either.
Taking risks is extremely important in fantasy NASCAR, as well. And if it works out they’ll usually end up bearing the most fruitful rewards. As there’s no race this upcoming weekend, and I recently discussed favorites at road courses, which is the next track on the schedule, this week I wanted to remind readers of three fantasy tips as NASCAR heads down the home stretch and into the playoffs.
Three Fantasy NASCAR Tips for the Remainder of 2021
Don’t Sleep On the Underdogs: Having already had 13 different winners in 2021, there have been multiple victories by an underdog with long odds, including Aric Almirola’s July 18 victory at New Hampshire. You don’t have to bet the farm on them, but definitely consider throwing a bone or two toward those with pay-down options. It could result in sweet, sweet victory.
The Standard Is the Standard – Or Is It?: This season, the fastest car in the race is winning less often. The two most prolific winners from 2020, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick, have a whopping zero combined wins this year. It may be easy to just pick the favorites every week, but be wary. At least check in every week and make an educated decision.
Your Favorites Give You a Shot at Twice the Glory: Picking your favorite driver is risky and shouldn’t be done all that often. But having them around when things go well and they pick up a great finish or a victory makes it twice as fun and exciting. Getting to celebrate not only a win on the track, but a win in fantasy is a feeling like no other.