AVONDALE, Ariz. – Brad Keselowski’s season comes to a close in flames at the season finale.
On Lap 269, the caution flew for Chase Elliott’s crash after contact with Ross Chastain. During the caution laps, the No. 6 Ford of Keselowski spontaneously caught fire. The car came to rest in Turns 3 and 4 with the safety crew immediately on the scene. Thankfully, Keselowski climbed out under his own power and was later evaluated and released from the infield care center with no issues.
But the question arose after the ninth Ford spontaneously caught fire in the 2022 year of the NASCAR Cup Series.
“I think there’s a lot in the sport we still need to figure out,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director for Ford Performance Motorsports. “NASCAR made a lot of changes partway through the season, which certainly seemed to help, but there’s just so much variability from track to track.”
The rule changes were pitched to address rubber build up around the rocker box back in June to address a safety issue. What solved multiple concerns presented a new problem over time. Since then, eight Fords caught fire during races and on pit road, after only one with Parker Kligerman’s Rick Ware Racing machine at World Wide Technology Raceway. The inconsistent causes of fires have left Ford concerned.
“A lot of it is due to the rubber buildup, and Brad last week at Martinsville, there was almost no rubber buildup in his car,” shared Rushbrook. “Obviously this week there was a lot. We need to take a close look at that through the off-season as a sport, as a manufacturer, and see what we can do to improve for next season.”
“It just caught fire and the next thing I knew we were sitting there,” Keselowski explained. “It’s a bummer, but we’ll hopefully (learn) something from it and move on.”
As for Keselowski, it became his first winless season since 2011 when he ran his first full Cup schedule with Team Penske. In his first year with the newly formed RFK Racing as a driver-owner resulted in a win for his teammate, Chris Buescher, sweeping the Daytona 500 qualifying Duels and impressive growth throughout the year. But Keselowski knows there’s more to grow to get themselves into Playoff contention.
“We’re a B-plus at best right now,” Keselowski said.
A B-plus grade is good, but Keselowski knows you have to be great to be a championship team.
“We’re making a lot of progress,” he continued. “It’s obviously a bummer way to end the season, but a lot of progress as a company and we need to have a big off-season of learning.”