This past weekend it was all but confirmed that Brad Keselowski would make his way to Penske Racing next season most likely replacing the struggling David Stremme. This came after a season of speculation about Keselowski’s future with JR Motorsports and Hendrick Motorsports.
Hendrick of course spent much of the summer trying to figure out a way to keep Keselowski in house (or very close by). He obviously didn’t have room in the Hendrick stable, JR Motorsports didn’t want to move to Cup and Stewart Haas (who has sponsorship issues of their own) showed absolutely no interest in expanding to three teams for next season.
As time progressed it became apparent there weren’t a lot of options for Keselowski even though he became the hottest prospect of the Silly Season after Martin Truex was signed. Penske and maybe Ganassi were Keselowski’s best options. A couple of other scenarios were discussed, but they seemed a stretch.
Now flash forward to this week. After it became public knowledge that Keselowski was likely headed to Penske, Hendrick came out and said “he’ll always be close enough for me to bring him back,” which got me thinking.
Think about this, no one is going to turn down Rick Hendrick; especially not the young driver who in large part owes his success to the team owner. So what does Hendrick do? He lets Keselowski go. He lets him go with the knowledge that Keselowski is welcome back when, in the very near future, there is an opening with the team.
What does this allow Hendrick to do? He doesn’t have to put anything into Brad K.’s development as a Cup Series driver, and doesn’t have to go through the year or two of mediocre runs and struggles.
And then what if Keselowski doesn’t pan out (it’s possible)? Hendrick then has lost absolutely nothing on Keselowski. He hasn’t lost time and he hasn’t lost money. If Keselowski does pan out, Hendrick can say I knew that he was the next greatest thing a couple of years ago. Then when the #5 car comes open or perhaps another car, he can entice Keselowski to come back.
If all goes well for Hendrick, Roger Penske will spend the time and money developing his golden boy and he can get him back when he has space for him. If everything doesn’t go well, Hendrick comes out of the situation no worse for the wear.
While I certainly don’t think this situation was planned like this (honestly I believe Hendrick would have liked him to stay on in some capacity), Hendrick has to know the situation really isn’t that bad for him or his team. And time will tell just how good Keselowski really is.
Just a thought.