Brad Keselowski is reportedly considering joining Roush Fenway Racing with a potential ownership stake. Would it be a good move?
Luken Glover: It is hard to see Brad Keselowski leave Team Penske. If he wants immediate results for the next couple of years, Penske is the place to stay. However, a couple of factors could play into it. Keselowski is 37 years old with a championship now, a sure bet to make the Hall of Fame. He would like to win more titles in his career; that’s a given. Tony Stewart was nearly the exact same age when he teamed with Gene Haas to form Stewart-Haas Racing. Another factor is the implementation of the Next Gen car. This car is expected to level the competition and cut costs. It would likely not be a long process to get Roush back to the front. Keselowski has the money and the knowledge to do so. If he wants to stay a perennial title contender, Penske is the better option. But if he’s looking to add to his career legacy, this may not be a bad move.
Daniel McFadin: RFR is nowhere near the frontrunner it was during the 2000s and early 2010s. Meanwhile, Penske is a perennial title contender. If the reports are accurate, it’s possible Keselowski thinks he’s gotten all he can out of his tenure there. He’s been upfront about his desire to own a Cup team. So if RFR can give him that option over Penske, then yes. But competition-wise, it’s not appealing.
Jared Haas: The driver-owner dynamic has been making a comeback since being almost extinct during the early 2000s. Keselowski might look to go that route with RFR as Stewart did in 2009. Before Keselowski won it in 2012, Penske never won a NASCAR title; Keselowski has proven that he can make a team championship-winning. Stewart took a team like Haas CNC Racing in 2008 that was failing to qualify for races to winning championships, Keselowski can do the same with RFR, which may be a piece or two away from competing for wins. While Keselowski has been a big supporter of Fords, RFR would make the most sense if Keselowski would move to a new team in 2022. Keselowski is not going to Hendrick Motorsports, and Joe Gibbs Racing does not have room right now.
Rob Tiongson: Absolutely, it would be a great move for Keselowski. At this point in his storied Cup career, Keselowski can have more input and power on what will take place at RFR with his ownership stake. Moreover, having this team in the hands of a Michigan native seems like an absolute win-win scenario. It’s quite clear that Penske is thinking long term with Austin Cindric waiting in the wings and Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano constantly battling for wins. If there’s a person who can revitalize RFR, a team that is making strides, but can do so in an exponential way, it is Keselowski.
Josh Roller: This move would be a win for a number of parties. It’s a win for NASCAR as it gets another new younger owner. It is a win for RFR because of Keselowski’s track record and increased chances to attract new sponsorship. It gives Keselowski security and accomplishes his desire to return to an ownership role. That’s something he has wanted since Brad Keselowski Racing ceased operations in 2017. I’ve been skeptical of his return to Penske since the beginning of 2021, especially after his Daytona 500 post-race interview. I believe the desire has always been to get Cindric to Penske and to keep Matt DiBenedetto in the No. 21 for Wood Brothers Racing.
Buy or sell: Hendrick Motorsports as the best team in the NASCAR Cup Series this year.
Tiongson: Buy. Yes, JGR has five wins and holds the top two spots in the points thus far. Still, Hendrick has incredible depth and balance with four young racers who have been in the mix most race weekends. It has a road course specialist and short track ace in Chase Elliott, intermediate track enthusiasts in Kyle Larson and William Byron and a closer in Alex Bowman. The team has been executing on these show-up-and-race weekends this year. The question will be which of these four makes it to Phoenix to chase after Hendrick’s 14th Cup championship.
McFadin: Hard sell. JGR has five wins and controls two of the top three spots in the points.
Roller: Buy. Combined, the four cars at Hendrick have been the fastest, most consistent and have had more cars in a single race threatening to win than all other organizations. Once Elliott can get that season-breakthrough victory, watch out.
Haas: Hold. Hendrick has improved by leaps and bounds with what it was last year. But the Toyotas of JGR has been very competitive, leading more laps than Hendrick. In 2021, Hendrick has overperformed Penske, but JGR has proven it can dominate races just as much. I would buy more if Bowman can have performances as he did at Dover International Speedway and Elliott can close the deal and win some races.
Glover: I’m taking that deal. JGR has more wins so far and Martin Truex Jr. is arguably the title favorite. But all around, Hendrick is firing on all cylinders. Byron is second in points with a historic 11-race top-10 streak. Larson is dominating races and just one click away from winning consecutive races. Bowman now has two wins to his credit despite his poor luck. And Elliott is finally starting to find his groove with some strong-for-him tracks coming up.
Some race tracks will allow a full capacity of fans at their next scheduled event. Is it too soon or long overdue?
Haas: Overdue. COVID-19 case numbers have been declining since the spring time, and vaccinations have been rolling out. While packing in fans may be concerning to some, there has not been an outbreak at any NASCAR race reported. Being at sporting events, fans will feel one step closer to the old normal.
Roller: It is somewhere in the middle. Certain tracks can host a large number of fans easier than others, and for the most part, the tracks announced can by the time their next race date arrives. While I would have waited until the 2022 Daytona 500 to go full capacity to be safe, if NASCAR and the tracks believe they can do it, I believe them. Based on my life over the past 10 to 12 months, while I would probably still wear a mask for most of my stay, I would feel comfortable going to a race with full capacity. It’s time to welcome more and more fans to the racetrack, and it’s good to see that happening.
Glover: It is a breath of fresh air after being deep in the water. It’s long overdue. With many states now lifting restrictions and mandates, it is time to see the majority of race fans back in the stands. NASCAR proved it could safely run events with drivers and crews, and it can do the same with fans and sponsor representatives.
McFadin: Roughly 37% of Americans are fully vaccinated as of May 18. One Penske crew chief has missed two consecutive races due to its COVID protocols. Justin Haley sat out last weekend due to protocols. It’s too soon — and I’m fully vaccinated.
Tiongson: I’m torn about this. I’m fully vaccinated, but a part of me says it is too soon to reopen fully. Tracks and most industries are hurting from the pandemic. So while it’s long overdue for life to get back to normal, and perhaps it will point in such a direction in mid-June, it may be a bit too soon.
Nielsen reportedly informed teams that moving the car number decals from the center of the door will add sponsorship value. Would such a change have the desired impact within the NASCAR fan base?
Roller: NASCAR fans are stubborn creatures and don’t always accept change well. The position of the number is going to change in 2022, and the fan base’s opinion isn’t being taken into major consideration. If moving the number of the car toward the front or rear wheels holds the potential to attract sponsors easier and bring more money to the teams, it’s going to happen. With that said, the NASCAR fan base will eventually get over it, like it always does.
Haas: Absolutely not. NASCAR has moved the contingency away from the racecar and onto social media, which caused sponsors to try to plug this area up. The sport was built on drivers being identifiable by their numbers, as the center of the door stands out the most on the car. Fans are more likely to know who drove the Nos. 3, 24 or 43 more than the Dow, Axalta or DoorDash car. Making that move with the number would ruin the identity of what the sport was built on. The decision to move the number back might deplete the fan base to those who like the number in the center and those who do not care about number positioning.
Glover: The last part of this question is what NASCAR needs to look at. At the Next Gen reveal, NASCAR President Steve Phelps told fans that this car was for them. If NASCAR is going to follow through on that, it must review the fan response. From what I have seen, the majority of fans have disapproved of the idea. For sponsor reasons, yes, this would maximize exposure. It would be silly to quit watching because of it. However, I agree with the fans that this tradition needs to be upheld, and it should be a top priority of NASCAR to please the fans.
McFadin: If the car number is slid backward or forward, the amount of real estate sponsors have to work with is still relatively the same to if it stayed in the middle of the door. There’s already huge amounts of space on the cars teams aren’t utilizing for use by sponsors. I’m very skeptical about what the change could produce. Make it optional and don’t change the size of the number and you won’t get a complaint from me.
Tiongson: Of course Nielsen reports such to the teams who are in the Race Team Alliance. Why not? Whatever the RTA has decided over the years, it’s proven unpopular and then gets pacified as benefiting the series and its fans. Such a move might be favorable according to Nielsen, but it is perhaps the most preposterous proposed change yet. There’s no merit in changing the location of the car numbers on the sides of these cars. Leave well enough alone. The Next Gen cars will do their part to entice young and longtime fans into looking at and possibly leasing or buying a Camaro, Mustang or Camry. There are certain things that should stay the course, and this is one of them.