Brad Keselowski is in a contract year at Team Penske for the second consecutive NASCAR Cup Series season. Will he be back in 2022?
We may be just seven races into the 36-race 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season, but there is already talk about the many remaining pending free agents and where they might end up in 2022. In fact, such talk began even before the 2021 season did.
One driver included in those talks is 2012 champion Brad Keselowski, who is in his 12th season competing for Team Penske.
The driver of the #2 Ford entered the 2020 season without a contract to compete in the 2021 season, and that did not change until early August. He then entered the 2021 season without a contract to compete in 2022 after signing only a one-year extension last year.
Entering last season, both Keselowski and teammate Ryan Blaney did not have deals to compete in 2021. This year, Keselowski is the team’s lone pending free agent.
Joey Logano is already under contract through the 2023 season after signing an extension before the 2017 season, and the agreement to which Blaney and the team agreed early last March was classified as a multi-year deal, presumably at least three years in length.
While he is the only Cup Series driver for Roger Penske’s organization without a contract to compete next year, two of Team Penske’s IndyCar drivers, 2014 champion and 2018 Indy 500 winner Will Power as well as 2016 champion and 2019 Indy 500 winner Simon Pagenaud, are also reportedly in contract years as well. The 2021 IndyCar season is scheduled to get underway in under three weeks.
Penske was asked about the futures of all three of his former champions last week, and here’s what he had to say about Keselowski specifically, according to NASCAR.
“We’re in discussion with all of them. I think that with COVID[-19], we haven’t been able to get together, but we’ve had conversations with Brad before. I think that we’re moving in the right direction.
“There’s no reason we wouldn’t renew, for sure. I mean, I guess it’s just a matter of us sitting down and putting it together, but with everybody not being able to move around, you don’t do that over the phone and you don’t do it by Zoom, so we want to do that face-to-face with all of them.”
This marks the third time in the last five seasons in which Keselowski has been a pending free agent for the following year.
He is often linked to any open seat at Hendrick Motorsports, given his past ties to the team and the fact that he may be there now had they had an opening when he rose to the Cup Series.
Last season, he was linked to Jimmie Johnson’s #48 Chevrolet for 2021 before the team moved Alex Bowman from the #88 Chevrolet to the #48 Chevrolet and signed Kyle Larson as Johnson’s effective replacement instead. For 2022, the #48 Chevrolet does not have a driver under contract, with Bowman having signed just a one-year extension last year.
Other notable seats without confirmed drivers for next year include Aric Almirola’s #10 Ford at Stewart-Haas Racing and Kurt Busch’s #1 Chevrolet at Chip Ganassi Racing.
Keselowski is 37 years old and is coming off of a runner-up finish in the championship standings in what was his fifth consecutive season with at least three victories last year. The 34-time race winner sits in fifth place in the point standings through the first seven races of the 2021 season with three top five finishes, including a top result of second at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.