Roush Finds His Kind Of Guy In Keselowski

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, November 18 2021

Brad Keselowski, Jack Roush and their No. 6 RFK Racing Cup car. (RacinToday photos by Deb Williams)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

Jack Roush’s children possessed no interest in the racing organization the 79-year-old entrepreneur spent more than four decades building so the Kentucky native wasn’t sure of his life-work’s future until Brad Keselowski came along and then everything became clear.

“He’s an entrepreneur. He’s a competitor, and like myself, I sense that he’s a person who will not easily give up,” Roush said about Keselowski. “He will continue an effort if he thinks he’s in the right direction past the point when a lot of people would say it’s too much trouble.”

Roush, who co-owns RFK Racing with Keselowski and Fenway Sports Group, admitted that until Keselowski joined the operation he “didn’t have a transition plan … to see the company going forward as it is today.”

“It’s not as easy if you don’t have that bloodline pulling you forward,” Roush said. “I really couldn’t see how I was going to be able to back away from it without having the kind of approach that Brad has brought and Steve Newmark (team president) has fostered … . 

“I’ll be able to back away some and not go to all the races and not be the first one on top of the pit box and the last one in my car to go home as I’ve been in the past for most of my time. I enjoy passing the baton to Brad.”

Brad Keselowski will help keep the Roush name in racing.

Keselowski grew up in a racing family and owned a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team for 10 years. After closing it, he founded Keselowski Advanced Manufacturing in 2018, using his former Statesville, N.C., race shop for its headquarters. KAM focuses on developing groundbreaking, custom solutions for several industries, including aerospace, defense, energy, automotive and performance motorsports. 

Roush says KAM reminds him of Roush Industries in its early years. 

“The difference is that I took the skills and the technologies that I worked out for my race cars and I sold those either in Detroit for the benefit of the production cars or to other competitors,” said Roush, who has won 32 championships and more than 400 races in stock car, sports car and drag racing.

“He’s going into totally different fields. His aerospace manufacturing is quite far removed from the competitive things he’s been doing as a driver or a NASCAR truck team owner.”

Roush Industries, which was formed in the mid-1970s, now operates facilities in five states and 19 countries and employs more than 5,000 people. The company is primarily known for providing management, engineering and prototype services to the transportation industry. However, the firm also has developed a significant role in providing engineering and manufacturing for the electronics, aviation, motorsports and sports equipment industries. 

“He (Keselowski) made the transition to things that were not related specifically to what he was doing on the race track sooner than I did,” Roush said. 

Keselowski admitted that without KAM he wouldn’t have possessed the confidence to join Roush and the Fenway Group in becoming a co-owner of the team. 

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

Both men agree that KAM and Roush Industries will benefit RFK Racing in its efforts to resume title contending status.

“I see that we’ll come to a common understanding quicker than we would have if we didn’t have our backgrounds,” Roush said. 

Keselowski added it would be “understanding technologies and understanding processes that would carry over” to the race team.

The Michigan native also noted that he saw a “lot of opportunity” with the team that perhaps others didn’t, including established NASCAR charters, legacy with Ford and the fans, and the Fenway Group relationship. 

“There are a lot of strengths here that I’m not sure people understand,” Keselowski continued. “Everything, quite frankly, but the competition side is very strong. I feel like I can bring the things needed to improve the competition side. It would have been a lot harder for me to improve the other facets of the company.”

 Keselowski knew in mid-2015 or 2016 that he wanted to eventually own a NASCAR Cup team; however, he admitted if it wasn’t for the Next Gen car being introduced in 2022, he probably wouldn’t have made the move at this time. The new car has more fixed costs, not just in manufacturing, but in development as well. There’s also a reset in technology.

  “I’m not coming into the building trying to fire everybody,” Keselowski explained. “That said, we are going to demand a higher level of performance … a culture of high expectations. Accountability is super critical. I told the team in one of my speeches to them that I’m not afraid of failing, I’m afraid of not trying. That doesn’t mean you can be reckless and fail with everything you do. It does give you permission to try things, learn from it and iterate.”

(Editor’s note: Award winning journalist Deb Williams is in her fourth decade of covering motorsports. The former editor of NASCAR Winston Cup Scene and managing editor of GT Motorsports has also covered auto racing for United Press International, USA Today, The Charlotte Observer and espnW.com. The 1990 and 1996 National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year has authored five books and hosts the podcast “Racing Now and Then.”)

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, November 18 2021
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