Keselowski leads Jack Roush back to Daytona’s victory lane

Feb 17, 2022, 3:38 AM | Updated: 9:14 pm

Chris Buescher, front, celebrates in Victory Lane with team members after winning the second NASCAR...

Chris Buescher, front, celebrates in Victory Lane with team members after winning the second NASCAR Daytona 500 qualifying auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

(AP Photo/John Raoux)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Brad Keselowski took Jack Roush to victory lane for the first time since 2017 as their rebranded team showed its ready for the Daytona 500.

Keselowski and Chris Buescher won the 150-mile qualifying races at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday night to put them side-by-side starting from the second row in NASCAR’s sold-out, season-opening spectacular.

“We have good hot rods here,” Buescher said. “They are fast and they handle good. I knew we were in good shape that whole race.”

He won the race on the 60th and final lap of the second qualifying race for the Daytona 500 when leader Joey Logano wrecked trying to block Buescher’s run. Logano, who was visibly angry after wrecking his Team Penske Ford, said he misjudged Buescher’s closing rate.

“Driver screwed up. That’s really all there is to it,” Logano said. “It’s my fault. It stinks because it tore up our car and kind of puts us in a spot as a race team. It’s just a dumb mistake.”

Across the speedway, Logano’s former Penske teammate was making his second trip to victory lane of the night.

Keselowski celebrated a huge first night of Daytona racing as both the team owner and its driver. He left Penske in November for an ownership stake of Roush’s organization — now called RFK Racing for Roush Fenway Keselowski — and is now driver of Roush’s flagship and original No. 6 Ford.

He has a long-term vision for RFK and its not a quick fix to get the team back among the NASCAR elite. And yet Keselowski won the first qualifying race and obviously has a fast car for the Daytona 500.

Keselowski said the night was critical for creating a culture that expects to win at RFK, which last won a Cup race in 2017 with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. at this track.

“There’s a lot of guys and gals on my team that have never won a race before. The company hasn’t won a race in five? Six years now? That’s any kind of race,” Keselowski said. “It’s really important to get that winning habit built up, and the only way you can really do that is to go win. That builds confidence in each other and builds expectations.”

Keselowski and Buescher will start Sunday behind NASCAR champion Kyle Larson and his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman. The Chevrolet drivers locked down the front row in Wednesday night time trials.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. will make his NASCAR debut Sunday when The Money Team Racing starts the Daytona 500. Kaz Grala drove the No. 50 Chevrolet into the race with a pass of J.J. Yeley on the final lap of the first race.

Six teams came to Daytona battling for four “open” spots in Sunday’s 40-car field. Two spots were filled in time trials — former Formula One champion Jacques Villeneuve will make his Daytona 500 debut, as will Noah Gragson for Beard Motorsports — and one spot was available in each of the two qualifying races.

Grala earned one of them with a pass for 18th on the final lap of the first race. NY Racing, a team owned by Black entrepreneur John Cohen, raced its way into the Daytona 500 in the second race. The team pulled Greg Biffle out of semi-retirement and at 52, Biffle will be the oldest driver in the field Sunday when he makes his 15th career Daytona 500 start.

Grala said “the word on the street” was that his boss Mayweather would be at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, but the team face-timed with the retired boxer from the starting grid.

“He was so pumped up about it. He was ready, jacked up and really confident in us,” Grala said. “That was a cool pep talk to get, not one that I’ve ever gotten before. Definitely a cool moment for us and having that validation that he’s excited about this program.”

The 500 has been sold out for about a month with an expected crowd Sunday of more than 120,000 that Grala predicted would woo Mayweather. The Money Team plans just a partial schedule this season.

“He’s really going to get obsessed with this,” Grala said.

Roush had won a Daytona qualifier only once before, in 2012 when Matt Kenseth won both the short race and then the 500.

But their Fords are among a group of clearly superior Mustangs who strategized their racing plans and worked together. Keselowski led Ford to a sweep of the top four spots in the first race; Buescher gave Ford a podium sweep with his win, and Logano had made it four Fords at the front before his crash.

Larson led a race-high 34 laps from the pole, but finished seventh. He will lead the field to green Sunday in the debut of NASCAR’s new Next Gen car.

The racing Thursday night was extremely conservative until Logano’s last-lap block — because of the slow rollout of the Next Gen, the car missed its initial deadline by a year because of the pandemic — teams simply don’t have enough race cars.

Everything is purchased now and teams aren’t building their own stuff anymore. With cars so hard to come by at the start of the season, few have backup cars in Daytona. It meant everyone had to race fairly safe to save their car for the 500.

“It stinks because it tore up our car and kind of puts us in a spot as a race team,” Logano said.


More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/apf-AutoRacing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]

1 year ago

Joe Jarzynka...

Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]

1 year ago

FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...

Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]

1 year ago

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...

Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]

1 year ago

FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...

Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]

1 year ago

FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...

Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]

1 year ago

Keselowski leads Jack Roush back to Daytona’s victory lane