NASCAR: Brad Keselowski’s ‘Tom Brady’ move didn’t go as planned

Brad Keselowski, RFK Racing, Daytona 500, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski, RFK Racing, Daytona 500, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

Brad Keselowski left Team Penske after 12 seasons of full-time NASCAR Cup Series competition. His replacement immediately won the Daytona 500.

After 12 seasons, all with Team Penske, competing full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series, Brad Keselowski turned the page on his career and joined a new team for 2022.

Keselowski signed with Roush Fenway Racing to replace Ryan Newman behind the wheel of the #6 Ford. But his new deal also included part ownership in the team, and they were renamed RFK Racing upon his arrival.

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The 38-year-old Rochester Hills, Michigan native left Team Penske on an 11-year streak of winning at least one race, including eight seasons with at least three wins. He won 34 races over the course of those 11 seasons.

But one thing that eluded him was a Daytona 500 win.

A few years ago, he lacked any crown jewel race wins, despite being a series champion with more than two dozen wins to his name. But he recently won all the other big events driving for Roger Penske’s team, all from 2018 to 2020: the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway (2018), the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (2018) and the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (2020).

Just not the Daytona 500.

In fact, he hadn’t finished the race higher than 12th place since 2014 when he finished in a career-best third, and that was one of only two of his finishes higher than 12th (fourth in 2013).

His new chapter got off to a hot start on Thursday night, when he won the first Bluegreen Vacations Duel. Interestingly, despite having seven points-paying superspeedway victories to his name, including one at Daytona International Speedway, he never won a Duel race as a Team Penske driver.

It looked as though he might continue this trend and become a first-time Daytona 500 winner with his new team on Sunday as well.

After starting in third place, Keselowski took the lead on the opening lap and led a race-high 67 laps around the 201-lap “Great American Race” around the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) high-banked oval in Daytona Beach, Florida.

But the live betting favorite throughout much of the race had to settle for a ninth place finish after his #6 Ford played a role in several on-track incidents. This result was still his best Daytona 500 finish in the last eight years and just his third top 10 finish in the race.

Ordinarily, this may not seem super disappointing. But what rubbed more salt in the wound was who did pull off the win.

Austin Cindric won the Daytona 500 in his first attempt as the full-time replacement for Keselowski at Team Penske behind the wheel of the #2 Ford after Keselowski went 0 for 12 for the Captain.

While Keselowski should still have plenty of opportunities to win the Daytona 500 with RFK Racing, his debut didn’t go as planned.

It worked out pretty much the exact opposite of how it worked out when Tom Brady left the New England Patriots for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after 20 years. The Patriots, for the first time since 2008, failed to make the playoffs in 2020, while the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl.

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On the plus side, Keselowski is tied with Cindric for the lead of the point standings after the season opener. How will these two drivers perform in their new rides throughout the rest of the 36-race season? The second race on the 2022 schedule is the WISE Power 400, which is set to be broadcast live on Fox from Auto Club Speedway beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, February 27. Start your free trial of FuboTV now and don’t miss any of the action!