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COLUMN: Keselowski rumors reminiscent of Stewart in 2008

COLUMN: Keselowski rumors reminiscent of Stewart in 2008

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When the Brad Keselowski rumors began to rumble, I immediately thought of July 10, 2008.

After 10 years, two championships and 33 wins, why in the world would Tony Stewart jump ship from Joe Gibbs Racing to go to a team that was mid-pack at best?

Fast-forward to 2021 and why in the world is Brad Keselowski looking to leave Team Penske after 12 seasons, a title and 34 victories to go to a team that is mid-pack at best?

It’s simple. Everybody wants to be the boss man.

In 2008, Stewart was unhappy with JGR’s move to Toyota, so he set his eyes on a stake in Haas CNC Racing, a two-team Chevrolet organization that employed Scott Riggs in one car; a combination of Jeremy Mayfield, Johnny Sauter, Ken Schrader, Jason Leffler, Tony Raines and Max Papis in the other; failed to qualify on seven different occasions; and finished top 10 once.

In 2021, it seems Keselowski’s time at Penske has run its course after lengthy contract deliberations last season resulted in just a one-year extension, so he has set his eyes on a stake in Roush Fenway Racing, a two-team Ford organization that employs Ryan Newman in one car, Chris Buescher in the other, and has faded far below its championship- and race-winning days.

Stewart’s gamble certainly has paid off, with his high-profile name and ability to attract sponsors delivering 65 wins and two championships in 13 seasons to date, including the team owner’s third driving title that came in just the organization’s third year of competition.

If you could guarantee Keselowski that making his move — which FOX Sports’ Bob Pockrass describes as a “done deal” — would result in another driving championship, a title as an owner and scores of victories in both capacities in 13 years’ time, there’d be no question of what to do.

Stewart was 37 when he announced his foray into being an owner/driver for a team with a Hendrick Motorsports technical alliance. Keselowski turned 37 this year and is on the precipice of joining a team with some of the deepest Ford roots you can find in NASCAR.

It won’t be easy by any stretch of the imagination, but Keselowski has the ability and the smarts to make it work, and he’s been a NASCAR owner before in the truck series. And with the NextGen car rolling out for 2022, the gap that needs bridging will be even smaller.

So, if RFK Racing — that’s Roush Fenway Keselowski, not Robert Francis Kennedy — comes to fruition, every eye will be on the team and its performance when Speedweeks 2022 arrives.

And you can bet that Stewart will be paying some attention, too.

Justin Epley is a sports writer for The News Herald. He can be reached at jepley@morganton.com.

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