Brad Keselowski: Hard to believe it’s his sixth season with Penske already

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Though he always believes in looking ahead, Brad Keselowski looked back on his career Wednesday with Team Penske during the third day of the NASCAR Media Tour in Charlotte, N.C.

Keselowski is entering his sixth full-time season in the Sprint Cup Series and has 16 wins, 15 with Penske. Last season he scored a single season career-high of six victories. He also has 32 Xfinity Series wins, 26 with Penske (the other six with JR Motorsports).

Time certainly has flown for the 2012 champion.

“It’s hard to believe this is my sixth year at Penske,” the Rochester Hills, Mich., native said. “It’s been a tremendous ride, and I’m looking forward to the years to come.

“All of us, driver lineup wise, I think are set up here for years to come and it’s been a heck of a ride with winning races and winning championships.”

Keselowski signed with Penske in 2009, a few months after his first Cup victory in a memorable last-lap duel with Carl Edwards (whose Ford went sailing into the catchfence at Talladega Superspeedway).

“I remember when I walked in the door at Team Penske in the fall of 2009, Penske had three teams at the time with the 2, the 77 and the 12,” Keselowski said. “I remember seeing three cars parked, separate from each other, and all the teams were different. One team was in the Chase, and the other two weren’t.

“And now, here we have all our teams working together very closely. We certainly have more wins than we’ve had in a long time as a team and probably the best relationships inside the company that I would say ever, and I’m just thrilled to be a part of that.”

With five wins by teammate Joey Logano, Penske’s Fords accounted for 11 wins last season — second to Hendrick Motorsports among Sprint Cup organizations. Keselowski attributes success to staying the same.

“The continuity is huge,” he said. “As far as how it plays forward, you can’t get stuck on the past, and we talk about that all the time at Team Penske.

“We can be proud of it and can build a platform off it, and I think for us, we focus on what we have. And what we have are those strong relationships.

“We may not have eight cars, but we have three of the best, and that’s three of the best teams. I feel like we have an advantage with that. I think that’s a part of our success last year and I think that will be a part of our success for years to come.”

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After Will Power extension, Marcus Ericsson among IndyCar drivers awaiting new deals

IndyCar free agents
Chris Owens, Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment

FORT WORTH, Texas – Defending series champion Will Power’s name is off the board of potential IndyCar free agents, but there’s still much to be settled in the field – starting with the reigning Indy 500 winner.

Marcus Ericsson is waiting on a contract offer to remain with Chip Ganassi Racing beyond the 2023 season (his fourth with the team). The Swede said he’s made it clear to car owner Chip Ganassi that he wants to stay in the No. 8 Dallara-Honda, which has four victories since June 2021.

“Yeah, it’s up to him, basically,” Ericsson said Friday at Texas Motor Speedway. “He needs to give me an offer for ’24 onward. The ball is in his corner. I really enjoy it at Ganassi, and we’ve done a lot of great things together and would love to continue, but the ball is in his corner. He knows very well what I want.”

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Two days before Ericsson won the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg season opener March 5, Ganassi sang the praises of the emerging star driver to a small group of reporters.

“I want him here beyond this year,” Ganassi said of Ericsson. “He seems to have gotten more out of winning the Indy 500 than anyone else has of recent time, which is a good thing. He did a good job. He’s been everywhere. It’s been a really positive thing for Marcus, the team, the series. He’s grown with that as well.”

Ericsson didn’t sew up his current deal until late in his breakthrough 2021 season (after a memorable victory in the inaugural Music City Grand Prix). So he isn’t necessarily anxious about it but conceded he “was thinking a bit about it over the winner in the offseason and talking about it

“But now that the season has started, I told my managers and everyone I want to focus on the driving. They focus on those things. Now the season is on, and I want to try to win races, win another 500 and championship. That’s where my focus is. (A new contract) is one of those things that happens when it happens. But I’m happy where I am, and I want to do well.”

IndyCar’s two best teams, Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing, tend to be very tight-lipped about their drivers’ contract status.

Power confirmed Friday to journalist Bruce Martin that his new deal was for multiple seasons. That means all three of Penske’s drivers are in multiple-year contracts (unlike Power’s deal, Scott McLaughlin’s extension was announced by the team last year).

But there is more uncertainty at Ganassi’s four cars aside from Ericsson. While Scott Dixon has a ride for as long as he wants (and the six-time champion has given no indication of retiring), Ganassi’s other two other seats have yet to be solidified beyond 2023.

The No. 11 is being split this year by rookie Marcus Armstrong and veteran Takuma Sato this season. In  the No. 10, Alex Palou is believed to be in his final year at Ganassi before heading to Arrow McLaren.

That expected move would cast doubt on the future of Felix Rosenqvist, who returned to Arrow McLaren when the team was unable to bring in Palou (who was embroiled in a contract dispute with Ganassi).

Aside from Penske, virtually every other IndyCar team (including Andretti Autosport, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and Meyer Shank Racing, which has Helio Castroneves in a contract year) has seats that potentially could open for next season, and even drivers who appear to be under contract for next year still could be on the move (via buyouts and option years).

Though Juncos Hollinger Racing announced a “long-term, multiyear contract partnership” last July with Callum Ilott, but the second-year driver was cagey Friday when asked about how long the extension ran.

“It’s for whatever I want it to be,” said Ilott, who finished a career-best fifth at St. Petersburg. “I’ll say that.”

Before returning to JHR, Ilott turned enough heads as a rookie to draw interest from several teams, and he indicated Friday that he still would be listening.

“I’d love to talk to some other big teams,” Ilott said. “Nothing stops me from talking. Look, you’ve got to be fair. I agreed to (the deal), but it’s pretty obvious that I’m quite interested as people are interested in me as a driver, but I need to focus on the job I’ve got here.

“I’m confident whether it’s in one year, two years, three years, four years, that if I’m wanted now, I’ll always be wanted. I’m a good enough driver that I don’t need to lack confidence in that side. … I’m not worried.”