NASCAR: Where will Brad Keselowski end up in 2021?

Five months after Team Penske extended Ryan Blaney’s contract, Brad Keselowski still doesn’t have a deal to compete in the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season.

Entering the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season, Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney was considered by many to be the top pending free agent on the market in a year when the free agent market was slated to be stacked.

But after the season’s first three races, the driver of the #12 Ford led the championship standings, and Team Penske wasted no time in removing him from the Silly Season discussion by signing him to a multi-year extension that likely runs through at least the 2023 campaign.

2018 champion Joey Logano has already been under contract with Team Penske for next year since he signed an extension to continue driving the #22 Ford back in February of 2017, so Blaney’s extension secured two of the team’s three seats for next year.

But what about the third?

2012 champion Brad Keselowski also entered the season without a contract to compete in 2021. He currently sits in second place in the championship standings behind only Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick one race beyond the season’s halfway mark with two victories.

Yet he still doesn’t have a deal to return to Roger Penske’s organization next year.  So what’s going on here?

After finishing in second place at Kansas Speedway a week and a half ago, Keselowski confirmed that he is still unsigned for next year but that he remains hopeful that this will change in the near future.

“I hope,” he said. “It’s not there. I’m very hopeful.”

He added that he feels as thought progress is being made.

“Yeah, it’s a work in progress. The good thing is there’s progress. But nothing is done until it’s done, so I feel very hopeful.”

But is that progress with Team Penske?

Back in March, Keselowski admitted that he may not be back with the Captain’s organization next year, although he shot down retirement rumors. He said that he won’t be “dialing out” looking for other rides, but that there are plenty of other solid rides available and he would be willing to field offers from other teams should they “dial in”.

Keselowski has been heavily linked to the #48 Chevrolet at Hendrick Motorsports to replace retiring seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson. Ideally, Rick Hendrick would like a veteran to join the young trio of Alex Bowman, 27, Chase Elliott, 24, and William Byron, 22, and the 36-year-old Rochester Hills, Michigan native fits that bill.

Keselowski has ties to Hendrick from his Xfinity Series days driving for JR Motorsports, and had there been a seat open at Hendrick Motorsports when Keselowski was promoted to the Cup Series on a full-time basis back in 2010, he may very well already be driving one of Mr. H’s Chevrolets.

However, as a full-time driver, he has only ever driven for Team Penske, and there is reason to believe that he will stick around to drive the #2 Ford for at least one more contract.

There are other open seats at top teams available as well, although the likelihood that Keselowski ends up in any of them is small. Stewart-Haas Racing have two potentially open seats with Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer in contract years while Joe Gibbs Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing each have one with Erik Jones and Matt Kenseth in contract years.

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Following a 10-day break, which is the longest break since the coronavirus pandemic caused an unexpected 10-week hiatus from March to May, Keselowski and the rest of the Cup Series are set to be back in action this afternoon with the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. NBC Sports Network is set to broadcast this race live beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET.

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