Brad Keselowski has 59 career NASCAR victories, 23 on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series level, 35 on the NASCAR XFINITY Series level and one in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Furthermore, he’s won a championship in Cup (2012) and XFINITY (2010) too. Both of those titles came as a driver for Team Penske. Also, 22 of the 23 Cup wins, 29 of those 35 XFINITY Series victories and his lone Trucks trip to victory lane came as a member of the Penske organization.
So, with Keselowski possibly entering free agency for 2018, why on earth would he ever sign with anyone else? The better question is, why on earth would Penske allow him to do so either?
The two sides won’t ever split.
Whey would they?
Keselowski, felt that Hendrick Motorsports left him high and dry when they went ahead and kept Mark Martin for another year. The Michigan native said that he was told that would be his ride, as he was a developmental driver for the organization driving in the XFINITY Series in the mid 2000s. But, with Martin still contending, HMS kept the veteran in the car and didn’t have anywhere for Keselowski to move up to as a result of that decision.
At the time, Jeff Gordon wasn’t going anywhere either. Neither was Jimmie Johnson who was in the middle of his championship dynasty. Also, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was recently signed in 2008. With Martin being extended, Keselowski was the odd man out.
Then, Penske came calling.
Keselowski, had a rough rookie season with the team on the Cup level in 2010, finishing 25th in the final standings. But, in the XFINITY Series that year, he won six times and was a champion. In 2011, he hit his stride at NASCAR’s top level. He’d win three races that year and finish fifth in the championship. He also won five more XFINITY Series races too.
Then, in 2012, he was hoisting the championship trophy at Homestead after five more victories at the Cup level.
By the end of that year, since he joined Penske for the 2010 season, he had culminated eight wins in Cup, a championship too, while also winning an XFINITY Series title and 14 races in that series as well.
Two titles and 20 overall trips to victory lane in three years.
Over the next two years, he’d win 12 XFINITY Series races, but doing so in just 27 starts. In Cup, he’d win seven more times too.
Then, the last three years, he’s really focused just on the Cup side of things, making just 29 total XFINITY Series starts since the beginning of the 2015 season, but he’s thrived in everything he’s driven for the team at any level. He says he owes the team everything for giving him this opportunity. The team feels they owe him too. He gave them their first Cup title, and kept them as a strong contender on a weekly basis in their famed No. 2 Ford.
Now, the two sides will undoubtedly come together and work out a new contract keeping him with the team for the foreseeable future. Joey Logano was just signed for the long-term, a deal through 2023. That was announced back in February at Daytona. I wouldn’t be shocked to see a similar deal with Keselowski announced very soon too.
Despite not having a deal in place for 2018, Penske isn’t going to let him get away. Yes, Hendrick has a ride opening up at the end of the season, and yes it’s virtually the same ride he was in with them at the XFINITY Series level too.
He was No. 88 with JR Motorsports, grooming with help from his buddy Dale Earnhardt Jr. Yes, the No. 88 Chevrolet on the Cup level will be opening due to Earnhardt’s retirement at seasons end. Yes, it would make complete sense for Keselowski to return to his friend’s ride, but it also on the flip side wouldn’t make much sense for Penske to let him even have the opportunity to get there.
I don’t think there’s any rhyme or reason why Keselowski will get to the end of the 2017 season and not have a contract presented to him from Penske. There’s no way they get in a bidding war with Hendrick come November and December. They will want to get him signed well before then. In fact, I’d be surprised if we made it to Indy in July and Keselowski doesn’t have an extension with Penske sitting in front of him. I’d also be surprised if he didn’t sign it.
So, don’t over think this. No, Ryan Blaney isn’t replacing Keselowski and no Carl Edwards isn’t going to the third Penske car. It’s going to be Keselowski, Logano and Blaney as the three driver Penske lineup for the next decade.