2023 Review for RFK Racing: Surprise Wins, New Heights, and Bringing Ford Back into the Contention
“Try to laugh and smile when you’re on top and soldier through when you’re at the bottom, and sometimes you’re there on the same day.” If one were to encapsulate Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing’s 2023 Cup Series season in a sentence, that comment by Brad Keselowski would fit perfectly. When the season started, RFK Racing was not looked at as one of the teams that would have a standout performance, as they had their fair share of struggles.
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However, when the season ended, they were seen as one of the most exciting prospects for the 2024 Cup Series season. So how did the team perform this year, and what are the major takeaways and expectations? Here is a deep dive into RFK Racing’s year in the NASCAR Cup Series.
How Brad Keselowski steered RFK Racing to glory?
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RFK Racing used to be one of the most competitive and dominant teams in the Cup Series at one point in time. They have 2 Cup Series title wins under their belt. For new NASCAR fans, that wasn’t something they could imagine given how the team had been of late. For them, winning seemed like a distant dream as they struggled for consistent playoff qualifications and top-10 results. And then came Brad Keselowski.
It was announced in 2021 that the former NASCAR Cup Series champion, Brad Keselowski, would take over a minority share in RFK and join the team in a driver-owner role. With years of experience and tricks that he learned from some of the best in the sport, he made several changes, both on the outside of the shop and inside, to help the employees work on the cars to the best of their abilities, and boy did they deliver.
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Brad Keselowski’s ideas and plans were very well received by the team. As per the team’s director of competition, Jeremy Thompson (according to motorsport.com), “When he (Brad Keselowski) actually walked through the door and started to get all the things going that he wanted, the team was a sponge and bought in 100 percent.”
All those months of hard work came to fruition in the 2023 series when, for a little while, out of the blue, RFK Racing was the most dominant team in the competition.
From 2 wins in 278 races to 3 wins in 15, Chris Buescher massively leveled up
Brad Keselowski might have been one of the brains behind the success but the man who was at the forefront on track taking RFK Racing back to the heights they used to scale frequently in the past was Chris Buescher. The 31-year-old had won only 2 out of the first 278 races of his career. In his last 15 races, he won 3, including back-to-back race victories.
The legendary tarmac of the Daytona International Speedway has been witness to several great NASCAR stories. In 2023, perhaps the biggest story that played out was RFK announcing that they were back among the big boys of the sport. In the final regular-season race, Chris Buescher and Brad Keselowski earned a 1-2 finish for RFK Racing with both drivers making it through to the playoffs.
Considering that neither of them had made the last 16 the year before, that result was outstanding. At a time when Ford teams were not performing very well, RFK Racing broke the Toyota-Chevrolet dominance emphatically.
Was RFK Racing’s success the catalyst for other Ford teams to perform?
Perhaps RFK Racing’s three wins in the last 5 races of the regular season were the boost that Ford teams needed to get their season going. The manufacturer ended up winning the Cup Series, but that did not seem to be the case before the playoffs. In a way, Brad Keselowski instilled belief in his former team, Team Penske, and proved just how good that Ford engine was.
Putting pressure on the Chevys and Toyotas, which had been in fantastic form throughout the season, was no easy feat. Many insiders believed that Ford did not build an engine that was as good as its competitors in 2023, and with good reason. Two of its biggest teams, Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Penske, struggled to be consistent during the regular season.
RFK Racing truly was a revelation, but the work is far from done. The aim is to bring back the glory days of the 2003 and 2004 seasons, when Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch became champions with Jack Roush’s team. So it’s no wonder that Brad Keselowski was not satisfied with where the team finished the season despite winning three races.
RFK is one of the most exciting teams ahead of the 2024 Cup Series season
In an earlier interview on SiriusXM radio, the competitive spirit of the 2012 Cup Series champion was on full display as he reviewed his team’s 2023 season. Keselowski said that he was happy with the progress they made in the year but not with where they finished the season. This only goes to prove that RFK Racing’s resurgence is far from over, and one can expect big things in the future.
“I think overall the team is please not satisfied, Claire. Pleased with the progress, not satisfied with where we’re at. I felt like there were times last year where we, you know, didn’t look that great. And then there were a lot of times last year, especially around the late summer. I thought we would look like two of the best cars on the track. And it didn’t all click when it needed to,” Keselowski said.
“That’s part of racing as far as sports and life. If we can get it all to click, we can be championship contenders with both cars. Pleased that we’re able to say that; we wouldn’t be able to say that last year, but not satisfied that we weren’t able to realize it, especially in those final eight races or probably final four, six races,” he added.
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— SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Ch. 90) (@SiriusXMNASCAR) November 16, 2023
So what should be a realistic target for RFK Racing in 2024? Are they title contenders yet? Well, no. Winning just 3 races does not make anyone a title contender. It is a process that takes years, and building that consistency is key. The team certainly would not want to achieve any less than what they did in 2023, so perhaps winning more races and going deep in the playoffs might be considered a realistic goal.
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Regardless of what that might be, one thing is certain: Exciting things are happening over at RFK Racing. It will be highly interesting to see how the team starts a much-anticipated 2024 Cup Series campaign.