Part Five No. 48 Series explores the last candidate to potentially make a move to Hendrick Motorsports in 2021. Is it Brad Keselowski to the No. 48? Will he or won’t he make the move?
Since seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, Jimmie Johnson, let everyone know he’s leaving Hendrick Motorsports at the close of this season, there’s been a lot of speculation about who will ultimately drive the No. 48 Chevrolet. There are several not-so viable candidates and several quite possible ones. Given the youth and inexperience that currently occupies the secure teams at the organization, there is a very real chance that team owners Rick Hendrick and Jeff Gordon will look for a more seasoned driver to provide mentorship to their otherwise young driver lineup.
Enter One Bradley Aaron Keselowski
While it seems unthinkable that Keselowski would vacate the No. 2 Team Penske Ford, where he’s had so much success, current rumors indicate the future is not so certain for the Keselowski-Penske partnership. Many people may forget that Keselowski’s Cup career has seen him drive for three different teams. Keselowski has a brief stint in the No. 25 Hendrick Motorsports car. His departure from HMS was due to the lack of available seats with a full stable of established veterans. With no room for a promising young Brad Keselowski, he eventually landed at Team Penske.
Keselowski and Team Penske
All but one of Keselowski’s 30 Cup Series wins are with Team Penske, as well as his 2012 Championship. For a decade, Brad Keselowski has been a weekly threat to win. Over the past year, however, cracks seem to be forming in that once solid relationship.
In earlier times at Team Penske, Keselowski was their premier driver. Now, it appears that the 2018 Cup Series Champion Joey Logano is assuming that role. Further reinforcing that premise is the Penske crew chief shuffle between 2019 and 2020. All three Penske crew chiefs were moved, with Brad Keselowski losing his long-time crew chief Paul Wolfe. Keselowski is now paired with Jeremy Bullins, formerly from the No. 12 team. Bullins is certainly a capable crew chief but also has the least experience as one. Though Keselowski is not saying anything negative about the swap, rumors say he is not pleased with the outcome.
Seasoned Driver Needed at HMS
Adding to the rumored friction at Team Penske, there are indications that Hendrick Motorsports would prefer a veteran driver for the No. 48. Except for the retiring Johnson, the other HMS entries are very young drivers still on the upswing of their careers. Only Chase Elliott has truly excelled at the organization, and HMS would likely prefer to focus their development efforts on their existing young drivers, without adding yet another inexperienced driver to the lineup. Gaining a past champion with the deep resume of Keselowski would provide the kind of foundation and experience that would greatly benefit the Hendrick team.
With no announcement and likely none for quite some time, it would be unwise to count Brad Keselowski out for a move to Hendrick. That potential move is likely the biggest since Dale Earnhardt Jr joined Hendrick following the collapse of Dale Earnhardt Incorporated, and could serve to reinvigorate Keselowski’s career.