Brad Keselowski building a ‘culture of high expectations’ at RFK Racing

Brad Keselowski doesn’t shy from utilizing the world stop working as he talks about the culture he looks for to develop as owner/driver of the rebranded Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing group.

There’s a function in utilizing the word stop working. Simply as there is function in all that Keselowski does, even if it doesn’t appear obvious in the beginning.

Eventually, Keselowski’s objective is to do something that hasn’t been accomplished in NASCAR in more than a years: Turn a having a hard time company into a winner.

While RFK Racing’s history functions tales of success, it is winless in its last 163 Cup races — dating to July 2017. The company last had a group surface in the leading 10 in points in 2014.

“I’m not coming into the building trying to fire everybody,” Keselowski stated. “That said, we are going to demand a higher level of performance.”

And a culture that matches.

“A culture of high expectations,” Keselowski calls it. “A culture that is not afraid to fail forward. Those are things that are really important to me. We’ve had some big discussions on it. A culture of accountability is super critical to me.

“Fail forward means not being afraid to fail but learning from it and getting better. I told the team in one my speeches, ‘I’m not afraid of failing. I’m afraid of not trying.’

“That doesn’t mean you can be reckless and fail in everything you do. It does give you permission to try things and learn from it. I think that’s really important for us.”

NASCAR Cup Series Test

NASCAR Cup Series Test

Keselowski, who when owned a Truck Series group, states running his business, Keselowski Advanced Production, has actually assisted form his concepts of running an operation.

“It served as a petri dish for me to basically try new things,” he stated. “I could learn from some tough mistakes … and become, overall, a more rounded person. With that came also some understanding of some other technologies that I really was not in a good place with before.”

Keselowski talks frequently about comprehending brand-new innovations and how the failure to do so might have a played a consider the failure of others to master the sport.

It’s not simply that location that Keselowski is taking a look at. He speaks about the procedure of turning RFK Racing into a constant winner. Couple of things have actually been ignored by Keselowski.

“We are investing pretty heavily in upfitting and upgrading our facilities within the current footprint,” stated Steve Newmark, president of RFK Racing. “A lot of that may seem trite and cosmetic with paint and new floors and all that, and others more structured like where we’re going to put the human performance center.

“But these are things that Brad came in and said ‘I know you guys have been doing this for a while, but I don’t think this is the optimal way to do this.’ … He’s struck that right balance between coming in and trying to listen and understand how or why we do things, but, at the same time, saying ‘Hey I feel passionate that we can do better in this area if we change this.’ That’s the spark.”

Kevin Kidd, technical director at RFK Racing, stated that “there are no sacred cows in the building as far as what our process is and what it should be.”

Ford 400

Ford 400

What Keselowski is attempting to do was last done by Tony Stewart. He signed up with Haas-CNC Racing to form Stewart-Haas Racing in 2009.

Haas-CNC Racing was winless in 284 Cup begins prior to Stewart got here. He won 4 times in 2009 and the champion in 2011.

So, there’s a possible roadmap, however that doesn’t imply the very same course can be taken, or the very same outcomes can take place in the very same way.

Other companies that when were pillars of the sport, including what was referred to as Roush Fenway Racing, have actually fallen from the leading tier. Roush’s 2 wins considering that 2014 equates to Front Row Motorsports’ success overall in the very same period.

It’s rather a modification for Roush, which was was amongst the dominant groups from 2002-08, winning 2 champions and approximately 9 races a season.

The company’s consistent decrease saw Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards leave for Joe Gibbs Racing. Roush might not continue their success after they left.

Increasing to the sport’s elites will be difficult. Joe Gibbs Racing, Hendrick Motorsports and Group Penske integrated to take 80% of the top-10 positions in points the previous 3 seasons.

Stewart-Haas Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing were the only other companies to have chauffeurs complete in the leading 10 in points throughout those years.

So, how can a group that was amongst the sport’s pillars return after such a long time far from the leading pedestal?

Steve Newmark, group president, states the Next Gen vehicle will assist stabilize the power in the sport considering that groups no longer construct their own automobiles. All groups are finding out the principles — and subtleties — of the vehicle and what it will require to make it much faster.

“Now, the best teams are going to be the best teams … but we think that Next Gen presents a fairly unique opportunity in the history of this sport to rise back on top,” he stated.

Newmark likewise preaches perseverance in this journey.

“It’s not going to happen with a snap of a finger,” he stated of turning into one the elite companies once again. “You have to have realistic expectations that it’s going to be gradual.”

NASCAR Cup Series Test

NASCAR Cup Series Test

Newmark likewise keeps in mind the company anticipates to reveal enhancement in 2022.

“If you talk to Brad, he’s going to tell you he’s going to win races next year and compete for the championship,” Newmark stated.

“From my perspective, we just need to be climbing that ladder and becoming more competitive on a day-by-day basis.”

That likewise indicates playoffs.

“Our expectations are both teams in the playoffs next year,” Newmark stated. “(Keselowski’s goals) will be higher than that, which I want. I want him to be pushing.”

Keselowski is.

“I challenged the team to expand into areas that are outside of their comfort zone,” he stated. “I prefaced it by saying that I’m way outside my comfort zone. … I left a team that had won or been playoff eligible for the last 10 years for one that hasn’t won a race in three or four years.

“I’m outside my comfort zone. I left Roger Penske, whose got this golden legacy, to come here. I left that comfort zone because I believe what we can do here. I still believe it. I’m more confident than ever that we can do it.

“That said, I think I’m asking the entire company, every employee to push their limits as well and to get outside of their comfort zone. That’s what is going to be required to turn this thing around.”

2. Closer ties

The Next Gen age currently is considerably various for Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and JTG Daugherty Racing.

While the company scaled down from 2 automobiles to one after this year, Stenhouse states the group’s relationship with Chevrolet has actually grown. That’s enabled Stenhouse to go to the simulator, something he hadn’t done considering that 2019 when he was with Roush Fenway Racing and Ford.

Stenhouse remained in the Chevy simulator after the Next Gen test on the Charlotte Roval and prior to this week’s test on the Charlotte oval. He’s arranged to be back in the simulator today to include modifications that operated in the test to the simulation program.

NASCAR Cup Series Test

NASCAR Cup Series Test

“We’ll make sure those things keep correlating, so that we continue to make better adjustments and more calculated adjustments, especially if our practices are short practices,” Stenhouse stated.

NASCAR is anticipated to have session at a lot of Cup occasions in 2022, however a lot of those sessions will be quick.

“You’re not going to have a lot of time to make adjustments,” Stenhouse stated of those practices. “It’s going to be really important to use the simulator correctly and make sure we unload the way we need to be.”

That will be essential for a motorist who revealed substantial development in restarts and passing capability throughout the playoffs. More sim time might assist him surpass his 22nd-place surface in the points this previous season.

Stenhouse confesses that he wasn’t constantly eager to go to the simulator in the past.

“Back when I would do the sim, I didn’t feel a huge correlation from what we were doing there to the racetrack,” he stated. “I was anxious to kind of see (now). We did a post-Roval test, and I felt like some of the things we did at the Roval correlated on the simulator.”

Another secret for him this offseason is that he’ll do all the screening for JTG Daugherty Racing as its only motorist. He stated that is type in finding out the brand-new vehicle at various tracks.

“I think (at Charlotte), the brake packages are so big now that we have with our race cars that any little touch of the brake really kills your speed,” he stated. “We don’t have enough horsepower right now with the drag package. It takes two or three laps to get that speed back. I feel like that’s one thing that is noticeable here at Charlotte.

“But at the road course, we can stop so much better than we ever have. Your braking points aren’t even close. I don’t know if when we go to Phoenix (in December to test), is carrying momentum into the corner, lifting early and not using brake going to be beneficial, or is it going to be beneficial driving really far into the corner, using the brake package to slow it down a lot quicker?

“Just trying to find where that speed is going to be. It’s one reason why I feel it’s a benefit that we’re a one-car team, and I get to do every single test we do. I’ll be able to hit all these racetracks and have a lot of laps, two days, on each track.”

3. Offseason weight program

The Next Gen vehicle is affecting the sport in methods chauffeurs might not have actually envisioned.

Take Ross Chastain, for example.

He works with Josh Wise, a previous motorist who concentrates on efficiency training with 15 Chevy chauffeurs throughout Cup, Xfinity and the Outdoor Camping World Truck Series.

Chastain, who weighs 150 pounds, states that Wise has actually set an objective for Chastain to get 15 pounds in the offseason … since of the Next Gen vehicle.

“We know these cars are hotter,” Chastain stated. “We’re doing things to cool them down, but their plan for me is to put weight on to be ready to probably have to sweat it out in these races.”

Chastain kept in mind the program is currently underway.

“I’ve never taken protein powder and all this stuff,” he stated. “I’m a water and beet juice guy. Watermelon juice.”

Chastain kept in mind Thursday that he felt great after a 35-lap perform at the Next Gen test at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He mentioned the modifications made to the vehicle to enable more air to flow inside it and decrease the severe heat chauffeurs have actually felt.

Another modification for Chastain, who signs up with Trackhouse Racing, is that his beard his gone.

“Fresh start,” he stated of the modification.

4. Concerns

While much has actually been made about Kurt Busch signing up with 23XI Racing to be a coach to Bubba Wallace, that neglects a crucial function Busch has.

“I was hired as a driver,” he stated. “My duties are to drive the 45 car with the best knowledge and smarts and swagger that I can, and to be consistent and find things that a veteran is supposed to find within a new car.

NASCAR Cup Series Test

NASCAR Cup Series Test

“At the same time there are young engineers, young crew members that are eager to learn. All the knowledge that I have in certain areas I would love to transfer (to them).

“Then with Bubba, we know we want him to jump into the program with a mindset to win and to be there at another level next year. It’s already started to begin on that side of it.”

Busch confesses’s much easier to count the variety of individuals that he’s worked with prior to who are at 23XI Racing than count the ones he need to find out.

“This new group, I can just feel the enthusiasm and the energy level,” he stated.

Someone Busch understands well is team chief Billy Scott. They collaborated in 2018 at Stewart-Haas Racing and won a race.

“I feel like our time at SHR was cut short a few years back,” Busch stated. “So he was in my top three right away, and everybody at 23XI filtered through all the different candidates and we felt like Billy Scott would be the guy.”

5. Quick work

Justin Alexander, team chief for Austin Dillon, detailed what the group did after Dillon trashed early in Wednesday’s test session and had the vehicle back on track that night after going to Richard Childress Racing for repair work.

“The way this car is designed, with removable front and rear clips and body panels that bolt on and off, we were able to take the front clip off, pull the motor out. The motor was damaged, the front clip, obviously.

“Everything else was really intact. The rear bumper had a little bit of damage and the rear tail, so we had to replace the rear tail, the rear bumper, the left rear quarter panel and everything on the front — the hood, the fenders, the nose and then the front clip and engine.

“We had all of our guys back at the shop work on it and thrash on it for a few hours. … We did what this car was designed to do and that was to replace parts of the car that are damaged.”

Alexander stated if this had actually occurred throughout practice on a race weekend, he thinks the group would have had the ability to have actually done all that work in the garage and have the vehicle prepared for the race the next day.

“Going though it (Wednesday), it certainly allowed us to see exactly what we needed, what we didn’t have, tools we didn’t have, things we could do differently. That way, when it does come time to do it at the racetrack in the future, we’ll certainly be more prepared for it. We’ll go back and study those things.”

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