Brad Keselowski Raises Red Flag Over Next Gen Car and Reveals Why Concerns About It Produced an ‘Oh S*** Moment’ for Team
Of all the NASCAR Cup Series drivers, Brad Keselowski has one of the more unique vantage points when it comes to the Next Gen car and the 2022 season. Like the rest of the field, he is learning about the new machine and its performance through numerous testing sessions. Unlike the rest of his competitors, with the exception of 23XI Racing co-owner Denny Hamlin, he must also know the economics of the vehicle and understand it from a business perspective.
With a couple of rounds of testing this week at Charlotte, the 2012 Cup Series champion put on his helmet and got a good feel for how the car will handle — for the record, he likes it. However, he also recently received a sobering wake-up call while wearing his owner’s hat when he learned just how few of the new cars his team will have at its disposal heading into the first part of the season.
Brad Keselowski reveals why team had ‘oh s*** moment’ about Next Gen car
When Brad Keselowski accepted the role as co-owner at Roush Fenway Keselowski, he knew a big part of it would be problem-solving. The 37-year-old recently admitted he has a concerning problem on his hands, which undoubtedly was in the back of his mind while testing in Charlotte this week.
Keselowski told Speed Sport that the organization had an “oh s*** moment” within the last week when it realized that the team would be limited in its supply of race cars to start the season. Instead of the standard maximum number of seven cars per individual team, RFK will open the 2022 campaign with five total cars, including Keselowski’s test car at Charlotte and two more cars per team.
“That will have to carry us for the first five weeks of the season,” Keselowski said. “I’m not super surprised by that. I guess maybe… (he hoped) that NASCAR would find a way to not allow that to happen. Although I could kind of see it coming.”
The reason is the same supply-chain issues affecting retailers and customers around the world due to the pandemic. Keselowski also surprisingly revealed that the earliest he expects the organization will have its full complement of cars won’t be until September.
Hamlin also recently expressed concerns about supply
Denny Hamlin feels Keselowski’s pain. As the only other co-owner/driver in the Cup Series, he also sees the Next Gen car from a performance and business perspective.
Several weeks ago, while visiting with reporters before the NASCAR Awards banquet, the two-time Daytona 500 winner expressed anxiety over potential supply problems.
“We certainly are concerned with supply issues at this point,” Hamlin admitted. “What I’m terrified of is if we have another semi-lockdown (due to COVID) and those suppliers can’t get the supplies they need to supply to us. We’re on a tight, tight schedule right now. The panic meter is moving.”
Keselowski likes Next Gen car’s handling challenge
While the ever-present supply issues would theoretically force drivers to take a more conservative approach at testing in order to avoid damaging the limited number of cars available, Keselowski showed no signs of letting off the gas this week in Charlotte.
In a couple of mock race test sessions, Keselowski finished in the lead for the first 18-lap session, which included a 16-car field, posting the best lap time at 29.641. During a second session, he finished second behind William Byron.
For months, drivers have said that the Next Gen car would prove to be a challenge. Multiple spins and a nasty Tyler Reddick crash with the pit road entrance wall validated those claims during the two days of testing. Keselowski admitted it was nice seeing the car make the drivers work behind the wheel.
“Probably my favorite thing about the new @nascar #NextGen car,” he said, replying to a tweet from Reddick talking about the cars are on edge.
“The positive is that the cars are so far proving to be a significant improvement in terms of how they require talent to drive & cost to operate- compared to years past,” he said in another tweet.
Count Brad Keselowski as a fan of the Next Gen car from a performance perspective. The owner in him understandably still has some concerns that likely won’t subside anytime soon.