Keselowski and Hendrick: What might have been
On April 18, 2009, Mark Martin won the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway . It was the 36th NASCAR premier series win for the 50-year-old driver and his first with team owner Rick Hendrick. A week and a day later, Brad Keselowski won the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway . It was the first career win for the 25-year-old, and the first premier series victory for independent car owner James Finch. Two distinctly different races won by two distinctly different drivers. Martin's NASCAR career was beginning to wind down; Keselowski's , on the other hand, appeared to have only just begun. But there was one string that tied the two together -- Hendrick Motorsports . HMS was home to Martin, Jimmie Johnson , Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr . And it was expected by many to be the future home of the up-and-coming kid from Rochester Hills, Michigan. But a collection of factors that came together throughout the course of that season altered the racing landscape as well as the career path of Keselowski . It would be nearly three years before the next driver change at HMS. By then Keselowski had not only found a new home, but he was also on his way to winning the Sprint Cup championship. 'I WAS NOT GOING TO LOSE' The sun was out and the grandstands were packed when the 2009 Aaron's 499, the season's ninth Sprint Cup race, went green for the final time. As race leader Ryan Newman tried to keep Earnhardt Jr., the crowd favorite, in check, Keselowski darted to the inside behind Carl Edwards on the track's massive backstretch. It was a move that didn’t seem to mean much at the time. But at the start-finish line with two laps remaining, Edwards and Keselowski shot to the outside entering Turn 1. "Here they come; look at the 99 and ..." NASCAR on FOX analyst Darrell Waltrip began. " Brad Keselowski ," lead announcer Mike Joy and co-analyst Larry McReynolds chimed in. When the white flag appeared, Edwards and Keselowski had caught and were beginning to pull away from Newman and Earnhardt Jr. Racing back through the tri-oval, Keselowski turned his No. 09 Chevrolet to the outside, and then quickly dropped to the bottom as Edwards moved up to block. Realizing the bottom lane was now open, Edwards reacted quickly -- but not quickly enough. Contact sent the No. 99 Ford spinning. Edwards' car came off the track briefly and was beginning to settle back onto the track it was struck by Newman's Chevrolet. The impact sent Edwards roof-first into the frontstretch catch fence. Meanwhile, Keselowski kept his foot in the gas, racing across the finish line for the win just ahead of Earnhardt Jr. "I was not going to lose," Keselowski said in his post-race winner's interview. "I was not going to lift and (I was going to) hold my ground and consequences be damned." A full-time competitor at the time for JR Motorsports (which, coincidentally, counts Earnhardt Jr. and Hendrick among its ownership group) in what is now the NASCAR XFINITY Series, Keselowski said he didn't know what the future held after his first premier series win. "I know I don't have anything locked in," he said. "That's really all I can say ... I don't have a job secured for next year, and everything to this point has been wait-and-see. I know this certainly can't hurt." But behind the scenes, moves were already underway. Finch's Phoenix Racing, which purchased it engines from HMS, had put Keselowski in the car at the suggestion of Hendrick. And the JRM/Hendrick pipeline, which grooms talent in the lower series to help restock the Sprint Cup program, was taking root. Keselowski had made two starts for Hendrick the previous year, and would make seven all together in '09, in addition to five races with Finch. Perhaps his future wasn't as cloudy as it appeared. "Rick had come out and told me, actually had made it a point to say to the media that he thought I was a future driver at Hendrick," Keselowski told NASCAR.com recently. There was only one problem. SWAN SONG? On July 4, 2008, HMS officials announced that Martin had signed a two-year agreement to drive the organization's No. 5 Chevrolet. According to the news release, Martin, who would run a full schedule in 2009, would "run a partial Sprint Cup schedule ... in 2010, sharing the No. 5 Chevy with a to-be-determined second driver.” By most accounts, that driver was expected to be Keselowski . But in May of '09, less than three weeks after Martin's Phoenix victory, HMS officials announced a revision to the '08 agreement. The veteran driver would return in 2010 to once again run the entire season. With Keselowski waiting in the wings and Martin winning and agreeing to return the following year, "Rick was kind of half pregnant," Keselowski said. "He (was) stuck. "My feeling was, after I had won Talladega, I'm going to get this 5 car ride partially next year, pair it with something else, let's go. I didn't know what it was going to be. We'll figure it out; let's go." A phone call and subsequent meeting with Hendrick, however, changed all that. "I was kind of expecting more of a 'Hey, we're going to expedite the process of clearing out the rest of this,' " Keselowski said of the meeting, "And instead I got a 'Hey, I don't have a ride for you. You need to figure something else out. I'll try to help.' "That was late April, early May of that year. My intent ... was to give him that time to kind of make right on it somehow, find a ride because he had made me the promise that I would have that car. It didn't sit all that well, but I understood the circumstances and so forth." Months passed and Keselowski busied himself with his full-time XFINITY Series effort at JRM while making a handful of Sprint Cup starts for Hendrick and Finch. Hendrick, in the meantime, was exploring the various avenues that might keep Keselowski in the HMS camp. Possible scenarios included Stewart-Haas Racing , at the time a two-team effort, and Red Bull Racing. Consideration was even given to fielding a Sprint Cup entry out of the JR Motorsports shop, according to the owner. But the pieces didn't fit and as the summer wore on, Keselowski's future remained uncertain. "I wanted him to wait a year," Hendrick told NASCAR.com. "... I don't remember all the details, but I do remember that Mark had done so well, and I had tried to talk (Mark) into staying. "I've told all our guys, the first time I sat down with Brad he impressed me because he was so intense about the whole car and wanted to be involved in everything. He was just so committed. I told our guys he's got the right attitude about racing and driving. I just needed him to wait." Waiting, though, wasn't part of Keselowski's plan. "My perception is a driver is a lot like a perishable fruit," Keselowski said. "You've got so much time, then he spoils and goes bad. There are a lot of variables, much like anything." PENSKE COMES CALLING The Keselowski family has always been involved in racing. Brad's father Bob was an ARCA Series standout and a former winner in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Ron Keselowski , an uncle, scored two top-five finishes in 68 premier series starts while older brother Brian Keselowski has one or more starts in all three of NASCAR's national series. "We knew the Keselowski name from being here in Detroit," Walt Czarnecki, an executive vice president at Penske Corp., said. "His dad, his uncle, all that. They would run out at MIS ( Michigan International Speedway ) when (Penske) owned the track." But it was a business associate, lawyer/agent John Caponigro, who brought up the young driver's name during a conversation in 2009. "We thought he was committed to Hendrick," Czarnecki said. "He'd been on loan to James Finch to run several races. But some things were changing." Conversations with Keselowski ensued, in Michigan as well as Mooresville, North Carolina, where Team Penske is headquartered. "All this time," Czarnecki said, "Still having this somewhat uncertain situation with Mr. Hendrick." Team Penske had grown from a two-team to a three-team organization in '08, fielding cars for drivers Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman and Sam Hornish Jr . In '09 Newman departed to join owner/driver Tony Stewart at Stewart-Haas Racing and 32-year-old David Stremme was brought on board to fill the open seat. But the Keselowski opportunity was intriguing, according to Czarnecki. "We've tried to sign on what we consider to be the best available young drivers with a great deal of potential that we could mold and have them grow in our organization," he said. "And I think that Brad certainly fit that description. "But above and beyond that, he had a bigger vision as to what role he wanted to play in terms of the development of the team. ... Just how he saw different things coming together ... "Some of it may have been a little unrealistic; some of it was certainly the enthusiasm of a young man who had a goal in mind. ... But he had this great enthusiasm and he had this great desire and this great commitment. And that appealed to us." With the Hendrick effort seemingly stalled, Keselowski went back to Penske with a request -- to compete full-time in both the Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series. In addition to its Sprint Cup effort, Team Penske was fielding one full-time XFINITY Series team with driver Justin Allgaier . Expanding that program to two teams running all the races was problematic, given the economy at the time. Told such a scenario was unlikely, Keselowski was left to consider his few available options. But Penske officials continued to work until enough of the appropriate pieces were in place. "Sure enough, Roger called me one night and said 'Alright, I've got it put together,' " Keselowski said. "It kind of caught me off guard. I was sold. That's it; he made it happen." "I couldn't sit around and wait. ... Roger had gone above and beyond to put something together that I felt like was the opportunity I needed. ... The economy was on its way down fast; Roger (through his various businesses) had a lot of immunities to the economy. Rick made it very clear to me that he was not going to invest himself without having a sponsor, and the economy was not in a spot where he could facilitate that." Hendrick had been aware of the Penske interest from the beginning, having had conversations with his fellow team owner about Keselowski's status. "Roger called me and asked me could he talk to him," Hendrick said. "I didn't want to stand in his way. Brad's a hell of a talent. It was a timing issue. "It's worked out for him. At his age it would have been nice if we could have kept him. ... If I got a call from Roger and I was in his spot I would have done exactly what he did." POSTSCRIPT On Sept. 1, 2009, Team Penske officials announced that the organization had signed Keselowski to compete full-time in both the Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series beginning the following season. Since then, Keselowski has won 17 Sprint Cup races, 28 XFINITY Series races and championships in both series. "I don't want to sound mercenary but he brought us our first Sprint Cup championship (in 2012)," Czarnecki said. "Because that vision that he outlined, we tried to work with him and bring people along, bring people into the organization, have him work with people like (crew chief) Paul Wolfe, it was really the realization of that vision. That's what it (has) meant. "And his intensity hasn't changed." Former teammates Busch and Hornish have departed, and fellow driver AJ Allmendinger has come and gone. Keselowski , now 32, is the veteran of a Penske group that now includes 25-year-old teammate Joey Logano . "I wasn’t looking to switch," Keselowski said. "If things would have gone the way they were supposed to go before Mark won that race at Phoenix, I would still be there."
Keselowski makes spectacular move for second
Brad Keselowski stays out after the first competition caution and makes a daring move to stay in the top five.
Reddick won't return to Brad Keselowski Racing
Tyler Reddick confirmed Wednesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that he will not return to Brad Keselowski Racing next season, ending a three-year tenure with the team owned by the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. "It's going to be a shame I'm not going to be there next year, but I've really enjoyed the time I've spent there," Reddick told SiriusXM. "Hopefully I can repay them with two more wins to add to the list." Reddick did not announce his 2017 plans. In 61 races, which includes two full-time seasons, Reddick has won three times and logged 24 top-five finishes and 39 top 10s. His first victory was the 2015 season-opener at Daytona, setting the tone for a memorable year in which Reddick never dropped below third in the points standings. Battling Erik Jones and Matt Crafton all year, Reddick would finish second to Jones in the championship point battle. Deemed a title contender by many entering 2016, Reddick did not find the same success as the previous year. The driver did not qualify for the inaugural eight-driver NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase, although he did win at Las Vegas, a postseason race. A natural fit for Reddick may be a promotion to the NASCAR XFINITY Series, where Team Penske -- for whom Keselowski drives -- is expanding its operation to a second car. The intention, according to the team, is for Ford Performance to use the second entry as an extension of a driver development program in an effort to build for the future. Meanwhile, Brad Keselowski Racing will have two new drivers in its two-truck operation next year. Daniel Hemric , who qualified for the postseason, is moving on to drive for Richard Childress Racing in the NASCAR XFINITY Series next year. It was announced on Friday that Austin Cindric would drive full-time for Brad Keselowski Racing in 2017. &amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;
Cindric to drive full time for Brad Keselowski Racing in '17
STATESVILLE, N.C. (Friday, November 11) - Brad Keselowski Racing announced today that driver Austin Cindric will compete full-time for the organization in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) in 2017 piloting one of the Team's Ford F-150 entries. "One of the things we wanted to do at BKR is give talented young drivers an opportunity to take the next step in their career," said team owner Brad Keselowsk. "Austin Cindric has already had success in various forms of racing and he has shown a lot of potential in our truck. We're happy to give him an opportunity to compete full-time at a high level in NASCAR next season." Cindric, 18, has five NCWTS series starts dating back to Martinsville Speedway in October 2015 - all with Brad Keselowski Racing. He has made three starts to date with BKR in 2016, qualifying a career-best second at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (Bowmanville, Ontario) and will compete for the Statesville, N.C., based organization in the Lucas Oil 150 Friday night at Phoenix (Avondale, Arizona) International Raceway. Cindric scored victories in the Sept. 23 ARCA Racing Series race at Kentucky Speedway and in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East events at Watkins Glen (New York) International and Virginia (Danville, Virginia) International Raceway. "This is a massive opportunity from Brad and everyone at BKR who trust me and believe in my abilities as a driver to move on to the next level for a full season," said Cindric. "The number one thing is you've got to get results on the racetrack, and that's something that BKR has done consistently year after year. One of the things I've learned in my short career is that it's all about people. You must have good equipment, but you can't have success without good people, and they definitely have that." The specifics of Cindric's 2017 BKR program, including sponsor partners, will be announced at a later date. </p>
Keselowski heads final Sprint Cup practice at Texas
RELATED: Final practice results " Pit stall assignments " 10-lap averages Brad Keselowski soared to the top of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series leaderboard in final practice Saturday afternoon at Texas Motor Speedway . Keselowski claimed the top perch with a best lap of 190.685 mph in the Team Penske No. 2 Ford. He'll start fourth in Sunday's AAA Texas 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBC, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) after a solid effort in Friday's Coors Light Pole Qualifying on the 1.5-mile track. Martin Truex Jr . -- like Keselowski , a contender who saw his championship hopes fizzle in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs' previous round -- was second-fastest in the 50-minute session. He turned a best lap of 189.787 mph in the Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota. Kyle Busch , a winner at the Fort Worth track in April, shook off an eventful Friday to post the third-fastest lap in Saturday's final practice. His Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota clocked a 189.753 mph lap to secure his spot as the fastest of the eight remaining Chase contenders. Fellow Chaser Joey Logano was fourth-best (189.707 mph) in the Team Penske No. 22 Ford with rookie Chase Elliott (189.447) completing the top five. The remaining Chase drivers and their rank in final practice: Carl Edwards (eighth), Kurt Busch (10th), Jimmie Johnson (15th), Denny Hamlin (18th) and Matt Kenseth (19th). Of those, only Johnson -- on the strength of his Martinsville victory last weekend -- has clinched a berth in the Championship 4 Nov. 20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Austin Dillon , who landed his third career Sprint Cup pole in Friday qualifying, was 11th-fastest in final practice. Blaney tops Saturday's early practice ( Practice 2 results ) Ryan Blaney led Saturday's first Sprint Cup Series practice at Texas Motor Speedway , notching a top speed of 188.515 mph. The Wood Brothers Racing driver put up his fastest time on his first lap out of 31 runs. AJ Allmendinger was second-fastest to Blaney with a speed of 188.508 mph. Ricky Stenhouse Jr . (187.846 mph), Casey Mears (187.826 mph) and Paul Menard (187.572 mph) completed the top five, respectively. The fastest Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup driver was Joey Logano , coming in as ninth-fastest at 187.026 mph. Chase contender and 2014 Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick -- who was quickest in Friday's practice -- was 30th-fastest today (183.761 mph). Defending series champion and two-time Texas victor Kyle Busch hit the wall in yesterday's opening practice and was forced to a backup No. 18 Toyota. Busch came in at 23rd-fastest (184.704 mph). Jimmie Johnson , a six-time winner at the Lone Star State track and the winner of the last four fall races at Texas, was 16th-fastest (185.810 mph). Johnson's win last weekend at Martinsville has already put the Hendrick Motorsports driver in the Chase's Championship 4. Polesitter for Sunday's AAA Texas 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBC) Austin Dillon was 25th-fastest (184.150 mph).
Larson holds off Keselowski for second NXS win
Kyle Larson holds off Brad Keselowski in the final restart to grab his second NASCAR XFINITY Series win of 2016 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Tyler Reddick leaving Brad Keselowski Racing
Tyler Reddick joined SiriusXM NASCAR Radio to talk about his future plans in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and his departure from Brad Keselowski Racing at the end of this season.
Keselowski celebrates special win at Bristol
Brad Keselowski celebrates his first NCWTS victory in 62 starts and explains how Thursday’s victory carries a special sense of pride.
Buescher prepares for move to JTG Daugherty Racing
RELATED: Drivers on the move for '17 " Final standing s NASCAR premier series driver Chris Buescher says he remains under contract with Roush Fenway Racing , but for the second consecutive season the Prosper, Texas native will drive for a team other than RFR when 2017 arrives. The end of November brought with it confirmation that the 24-year-old will compete full-time in a new, second entry to be fielded by JTG Daugherty Racing for the upcoming year. JTG Daugherty had one full-time team with driver AJ Allmendinger in the No. 47 Chevrolet in 2016. Buescher, the 2015 NASCAR XFINITY Series champion, spent '16 driving the No. 34 Ford for Front Row Motorsports where he earned his first premier series win in the weather-shortened Pocono event and made the 16-team Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Heady stuff for a rookie. RELATED: Buescher wins at Pocono "It was pretty incredible," Buescher said of his season with Front Row and crew chief Bob Osborne. "I'm just so proud of Front Row Motorsports and the No. 34 team for what we were able to accomplish … to get that first win and have a lot of good runs along the way, be competitive at different types of tracks was a blast. "Unfortunately we didn't perform as well in the Chase as we would have liked … (but) I learned a lot along the way." Buescher's victory came at Pocono Raceway in August. It was his 27th career start. Having his 2017 plans in place eases much concern but Buescher, 16th in points for 2016, said there are "still a lot of moving pieces floating around." Some are comparable to what he faced heading into this past season when he transitioned from the XFINITY Series; others are entirely different. "It's actually really similar to this year with Front Row," Buescher said of the situation with JTG Daugherty. "This year with Front Row was a loan as well. It was a little bit easier with the (technical) alliance that Front Row and Roush have with the manufacturer (Ford) being the same." However, JTG Daugherty Racing fields Chevrolet entries and enjoys a technical alliance with the three-team Richard Childress Racing organization. RCR provides engines through Earnhardt-Childress Racing as well as engineering support. "There are some unknowns to work through," Buescher said. "But I'm still under contract with Roush Fenway." Team personnel and other aspects of the new entity have yet to be announced. Cars won't be on the track for competition until February. Until then, Buescher said he will be looking over notes from the previous season in an attempt to better understand what worked, what didn't, and why. "That's pretty much the bulk of what we can do (for) next season … as we kind of wait out the calm before the storm," he said. &amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;
Keselowski on Chase pressure: I feel quiet and confident
RELATED: See the Chase grid " Chase Bubble Watch HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Brad Keselowski downplayed any sense of panic or urgency in his Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup hopes during a Tuesday test session at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Judging by the easygoing body language and quiet assurance he brought to a lunchtime question-and-answer period, Keselowski seemed calm and ready for the big race at Talladega Superspeedway this weekend. The Hellmann's 500 (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will decide which eight of the current 12 Chase-eligible drivers will advance to the next round of the championship. And Keselowski is ranked 11th heading into the race. He trails his Penske Racing teammate Joey Logano by seven points. Logano sits in the eighth place cut-off position now, tied in points with Austin Dillon . Keselowski had a string of seven top-10 finishes end Sunday at Kansas. His No. 2 Miller Lite Ford was hit by Denny Hamlin and Keselowski ended up finishing a season-low 38th-place. MORE: Frame-by-frame of the Keselowski , Hamlin wreck "I haven't honestly thought very much about it,'' Keselowski told reporters Tuesday. "I took Monday off and cleared my head. We came here this morning and all I thought about was how I could be the fastest here in Homestead. "I want to do the best I can at Talladega, but I like to live day-to-day." Later, however, the 2012 Sprint Cup Series champion and restrictor-plate guru smiled and conceded about his chances at Talladega, "There are worse places." MORE: Keselowski : 'We will win Talladega' "I feel kinda quiet and confident and when you have those moments, if you have to talk about it, it's like you have to sell yourself,'' Keselowski said. "I don't feel like I have to sell myself.'' That's in part because Keselowski has a reassuring track record on the Talladega high banks. Many would place the 32-year-old among the tops on the list of restrictor-plate talents. He certainly tops the series this year -- with victories this spring at Talladega and this summer at Daytona Beach. He has four career victories at Talladega -- including his first career Sprint Cup win in 2009. And he won this October race to stave off Chase elimination back in 2014. "Tactics change, cars change and I'm a few years older so I've probably changed, too,'' Keselowski said. "I think any success at the Cup level no matter what track, the keys are doing everything right. You have to have a great team, you have to make the right moves, and the strategies have to change and you have to have a little bit of good fortune. I don't think there is one key. "That track, I've been very fortunate to win at a handful of times and each time there was probably one moment that was more important than another moment and they aren't shared between the races." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;