Keselowski set to let Penske win before moving on to Roush

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Updated 1 hour, 58 minutes ago

AVONDALE, Ariz. (AP) – Brad Keselowski laughed when he said he was relieved Roger Penske didn’t give him the ‘Fresh Prince’ treatment and threw him out of the building on his last day with the racing team.

Gone of his own free will, Keselowski liked where he ended up.

The 2012 NASCAR champion with Team Penske is ready to get to work in his new driver role (with a participation) at Roush Fenway Racing. Keselowski wanted a fresh start – and ordered a fresh coat of paint – ahead of his Tuesday visit to the RFR complex in North Carolina.

“I want to come and clean the floors, clean the walls,” he said. “So they tore up the place last month. I will be entering a whole new floor and some whole new walls. If that doesn’t leave their DNA on something, I don’t know what it is.

First, Keselowski makes a final race Sunday at Phoenix Raceway for the team he has spent most of his 12-year career with. Keselowski and Penske have talked about finishing strong and maybe adding a final checkered flag to the collection. Keselowski posted a photo of his # 2 Ford in the garage on Saturday night with the caption: “Close the shop for the night. I can’t wait to take the 2 for one last lap tomorrow.

He had already posted a tribute video earlier this week with excerpts from his greatest moments in Penske.

Keselowski has won 34 times with Penske and established himself as perhaps the best driver in the Captain’s Cup. Keselowski joins a Roush Fenway Racing team – soon to be given a new name – that have failed to present themselves for years as a serious contender. Kurt Busch gave Roush his only Cup title in 2004. With Keselowski on board, he expected his No.6 Ford team to compete in the Daytona 500 immediately.

“We have to get results next year,” Keselowski said.

A sticking point in Keselowski’s decision was his desire to hold a stake in a Cup team. Keselowski fielded his eponymous team in the NASCAR Truck Series for a decade and the desire to be part of a team in the elite Cup Series has never gone away.

“It’s good not to be fired and to go, isn’t it?” Nobody grabbed my arms, ”Keselowski said.

He is not the only driver to advance after the final, and not all by choice.

Former Daytona 500 winner Ryan Newman has nothing on the table after finishing at Roush Fenway Racing. Matt DiBenedetto is absent from Wood Brothers Racing. Ryan Preece, Anthony Alfredo and defending Daytona 500 champion Michael McDowell have yet to announce their plans for 2022.

“Some of them didn’t know where they were going, suddenly, this summer,” Busch said.

Busch finished with Chip Ganassi Racing and signed with 23X1 Racing – also known as Michael Jordan’s racing team – and will drive the No.45 Toyota.

Ganassi sold his NASCAR operation to Trackhouse Racing. It all belongs to Justin Marks and Pitbull at the end of the race.

Ganassi and Busch, the 2017 Daytona 500 champion, had one last lunch together before going their separate ways. Ganassi gave Busch a framed photo of a shot the driver devised for a potential cooling system in the car from their first meeting together. Busch said Ganassi wrote a note saying, “Thank you, Kurt, for always being the leader that you have been for Chip Ganassi Racing.”

“It was a cool time with Chip,” Busch said. “It’s heavy.”

As Keselowski leaves the only team he knows, Busch, 43, moves on to his seventh team in a Cup career dating back to 2000.

“If we can finish in the top 10 and finish strong and get 10th in points, that would mean the world to me,” Busch said.

Busch has forged a career as a survivor, as has Newman. Newman also began his Cup career in 2000, won eight races in 2003, bounced around teams, and survived a fiery, death-defying crash in the 2020 Daytona 500.

Life or death has nothing to do with the unease Newman feels around his uncertain professional career, but the driver has been on the chopping block after failing to win a race since 2017. Newman said he really didn’t know not if Sunday would be his last Cup race.

His career could start and end on the same track. Newman finished 41st in Phoenix driving Penske on his debut on November 5, 2000.

“My phone didn’t ring,” Newman said. “The point is, there really aren’t any quality rides available.”

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