Which RFK Racing Team Shows up at Fontana, Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde?
Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing is NASCAR’s growling dog with the wagging tail: You just don’t know which end to believe.
RFK Racing was one of the biggest disappointments of the 2022 Cup Series and wheezed its way through the Busch Light Clash for the second straight year. But when the real racing started Sunday in the Daytona 500, Chris Buescher and Brad Keselowski did nearly everything necessary to pull off a one-two finish.
The fact they finished fourth and 22nd, respectively, didn’t tell the story. But with apologies to Robert Louis Stevenson, will next week’s storyline be about Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde?
RFK Racing got off to another bad start in Los Angeles
I buried Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing after the Busch Light Clash, and it was the right thing to do even though the season-opening exhibition is irrelevant to the season-long battle for points and playoff berths.
In a competition at the Los Angeles Coliseum in which speeds barely rise to the level of what civilians hit on the interstate, meaning the racing is chiefly about driving acumen, Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher couldn’t even qualify for the main. That was a bad look for RFK Racing for the second straight year and a potential precursor to continued issues.
Remember, Buescher may have won the Bristol playoff race last fall, but he still could manage no better than 21st place in the standings. Keselowski would have finished only one spot ahead of his teammate even after backing out the 100-point penalty NASCAR hit him with early in the season.
RFK Racing nearly pulled off a one-two finish in the Daytona 500
No driver ran more laps in the lead of the 2023 Daytona 500 than Brad Keselowski (42) or Chris Buescher (32) in the RFK Racing Fords. Buescher led as late as Lap 175, and Keselowski was out front on Lap 196 with Buescher in position to give him a decisive push.
Keselowski’s hopes of an elusive Daytona 500 victory ended with his car plowing into the SAFER barrier on Turn 2 on the final lap. It relegated him to 22nd place but couldn’t detract from the reality that he was riding a rocket all day. Meanwhile, Buescher finished fourth.
“You just, you want to hold a trophy at the end of the day, and we’re not holding a trophy right now,” Buescher said, according to NASCAR.com. “So, the end result is the only thing that I’m sitting here bummed about at any level. The rest of the day was awesome.”
Auto Club Speedway is the next test for RFK Racing
We’ve been fooled before by Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher. After all, they captured both the duels ahead of last year’s Daytona 500 and then finished 10th and 16th, respectively, in the Sunday race. While Keselowski led 67 laps in The Great American Race, there was an instant feeling the team underperformed, and the season turned into one disappointment after another.
NASCAR crosses the country this week for the Pala Casino 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, and it’s hardly a win-or-else proposition for RFK Racing. Coming off a sound performance from both cars at Daytona, the organization has some breathing room.
Fontana is a two-mile track, but nothing like the 2.5-mile superspeedway at Daytona. It will be interesting to see if the muscle the RFK Fords showed last week carries over. If so, it’s a great sign for the rest of the western swing and then the meat of the Cup Series season.
Got a question or observation about racing? Sportscasting’s John Moriello does a mailbag column each Friday. Write to him at [email protected]