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Halfway through the 2021 season, Silly Season is heating up with one of the biggest unknowns being what will happen with Brad Keselowski, 37, when his current contract with Team Penske expires at the end of 2021.
NBC Sports is reporting Keselowski has been offered an ownership role to supplement his duties as driver if he jumps ship and heads to Roush. The report originated at Motorsport.com, which cites multiple unnamed sources. If the move happens, the name of the organization will become RFK (Roush-Fenway-Keselowski) Racing.
Keselowski is rumored to be heading into the flagship, No. 6 car currently driven by Ryan Newman.
Newman's current contract also expires at the end of 2021, but it is unclear if RFK Racing would expand to a third car, or if Keselowski would replace Newman.
Roush did not announce the length of Chris Buescher's contract when he was signed last year, but it was a multi-year agreement. Sponsor Fastenal recently announced an extension through 2024. In the press conference announcing the sponsorship extension, Roush Fenway president Steve Newmark said he expected Buescher to be part of the organization "well beyond that."
In March, car owner Roger Penske indicated the team was "moving in the right direction" in regard to extending Keselowski's contract.
In 2008/2009 Keselowski ran a partial schedule in the Cup series with James Finch and Hendrick Motorsports, but a deal with the Chevrolet brand failed to happen. With three races remaining that season, Keselowski headed to Team Penske, where he has raced since.
Keselowski's first win came in dramatic fashion in 2009 when he refused to be pushed below the yellow line at Talladega Superspeedway in Finch's No. 09 by Carl Edwards.
Edwards crashed into the fronstretch catch fence on the last lap of the race. Keselowski's first win with Penske didn't come unil 62 races later, at Kansas Speedway in 2011. Keselowski went on to win twice more that year.
His results improved greatly in 2012 with five wins and the Cup Championship. Thirty-four of Kez's 35 career wins have come with Penske and he won three or more races each year from 2016 through 2020. So far in 2021, he has one win, which also came at Talladega. He led only the final lap in that race.
Moving from an established winner to a struggling organization is not new in NASCAR. In 2008 Tony Stewart left Joe Gibbs Racing to take an ownership role in a team owned by Gene Haas, who was winless at the time in nearly 300 starts. Stewart won in their 14th race together. He won three more times that season.
Of course, Roush is not winless. The organization has 137 Cup victories to their credit, which ranks fourth on the all time list. But they have not scored a victory at the top level since 2017 when Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. won twice on plate tracks.
So far in 2021, Keselowski's results have been erratic with five top-fives compared to five results outside the top 15. Last week's Drydene 400 featured some aggressive racing between Keselowski and teammate Joey Logano before Kez finished 16th and Logano was fifth.
Bettors should consider that Keselowski's 'lame duck' status - should it become official - could impact his results. So far, neither the Penske nor Roush teams have commented publicly.
A potential ripple effect of this move might also impact Austin Cindric and Matt DiBenedetto. In 2022, Cindric is supposed to move into a satellite team for Penske with the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford. That would displace DiBenedetto, who has three top-10s and another five results of 16th or better. If Cindric takes Keselowski's position at Roush, that might leave the No. 21 intact. In either event, DiBenedetto is racing for his life and should be wagered most weeks as a potential top-10 finisher.