Team Penske announced Thursday that Keselowski would be leaving the organization at season’s end to pursue other opportunities and reigning Xfinity Series champion Austin Cindric will take over Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford beginning with the 2022 Cup season.
Motorsport.com reported in May that Keselowski had been offered ownership in Roush-Fenway Racing and the organization would be renamed Roush-Fenway-Keselowski (RFK) Racing as Keselowski would drive the No. 6 Ford.
Roush has yet to officially confirm Keselowski’s new owner/drive role.
Penske revealed Thursday that Keselowski’s ownership interest began with his current team but found there were no options available.
“We’d expected to get Brad in for another two or three years based on the term that he probably wanted to race. Unfortunately, and good for him, quite honestly, he wanted to have ownership,” Penske said. “The way we’re structured it just wasn’t available at Team Penske.”
While Penske still tried to sign Keselowski, 37, to a multi-year contract extension last year when his last contract expired, Keselowski ended up opting for a one-year deal.
“He and I talked about this. Over the years there was discussion that long term he’d like to have ownership in the team, but the way we’re structured at Penske Corp. and the subsidiaries that we have, it wouldn’t work out and he understood that,” Penske said.
“I think we came to the end of our contract at the end of last year. Obviously, he looked to see what was there, I’m sure. We were having negotiations, but COVID obviously slowed things down.
“Basically, the final meeting that we had he said that he had an opportunity that would give him ownership, and I said at that point that we wouldn’t have that available.”
Ownership a long-time goal for Keselowski
Keselowski has repeatedly over the years maintained his interest in team ownership.
He owned a Truck Series team that competed in 190 races and won 11 times before he closed it down following the 2017 season. Keselowski then started Keselowski Advanced Manufacturing, an advanced engineering and manufacturing company based in Statesville, N.C.
“I’ve never made it a secret that I would eventually like to be an owner at the top level of the sport,” Keselowski said at the time. “And, while this is many years down the line, I want to start to prepare for that possibility now.”
What is now clear is when Keselowski found the path to team ownership unavailable at Penske, he began looking at other options in the series.
“This wasn’t a shotgun situation. It was well planned, well managed and we came to the decision,” Penske said. “The unfortunate thing is when you make those decisions it’s early in the season and then things leak out and there’s discussion. It doesn’t help him. It doesn’t help us.
“It confuses our fanbase, our sponsors and even the media, and I think that’s one of the reasons we made the decision based on the announcement of Brad that we had, and then we could work on how we were going to structure the team in the future.
“I think we’ve done it as quickly as we can and hopefully with transparency for everyone.”
Keselowski will become the second high-profile Cup series driver in two years to move into a driver/ownership role.
This season, Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin became part owner of 23XI Racing along with NBA legend Michael Jordan. That team fields the No. 23 Toyota this season in the Cup series for driver Bubba Wallace.
Asked if he had played any role in the expected partnership between Keselowski and Roush-Fenway Racing, Penske said, “In fact, in the early stages, I’ll be honest with you, we never even talked about who it might be, so I wasn’t privy to that and then we came to a point where he said he had an opportunity that he could move on and have ownership and then over time who it was came out.
“You’ve read some of the same things that probably I know, but I had no conversation at all with anybody at any time with Roush Fenway or with Ford.”
Brad Keselowski, Team Penske, Ford Mustang Snap on
Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images
While it’s certain Keselowski will now move to a fellow Ford team in 2022, Penske said there would be no change in how his organization treats him the remainder of this season (such has excluding him from competition meetings).
“As far as I’m concerned, we’ve got races to win,” he said. “I want to win the championship with him. He’s in the game. We would never do that. He’s part of the team.”