25 year old Brad Keselowski has become one of the most sought after young drivers in NASCAR of late, and the current JR Motorsports driver has two big teams after him.
Keselowski is currently 3rd in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, and the highest placed driver not currently participating full-time in the premier Sprint Cup class. He has participated part-time in the Cup series, winning for James Finch’s #09 team at Talladega in April, as well as other drives for Hendrick Motorsports in their #25 team.
Team boss Rick Hendrick also co-owns JR Motorsports, and was expected to sign Keselowski for a full-time ride next season. However the seemingly free #5 team was no longer an option, after series veteran Mark Martin decided to renew his contract with Hendrick. With Jeff Gordon having a “lifetime” contract at the #24, Jimmie Johnson a long-term deal in the #48 and Dale Earnhardt Jr’s future at the #88 car seemingly safe for now, this has left no room for Keselowski at the leading Chevrolet team.
A possible solution was setting up a 3rd car at Hendrick satellite team, Stewart-Haas racing, likely transferring the #25 from the works outfit. Current Richard Childress Racing driver Kevin Harvick has also been linked with this possible seat, but team boss and driver Tony Stewart has denied any plans to expand beyond its #14 and #39 teams for himself and Ryan Newman.
So what was Keselowski left with? Penske Racing had offered him a seat in their #12 team last season, however he chose to stay with the Hendrick backed Nationwide team for one more year, in the hope of a seat there. Now with the chances of obtaining a seat with them becoming slim, Hendrick allowed Keselowski to discuss options for next year with Penske, the lead Dodge outfit in NASCAR.
The result of those talks were a basic agreement for Keselowski to race for Penske next year, who would replace the erratic David Stremme. Despite this, it could actually work out rather well for Hendrick. Penske already have a development driver, Justin Allgaier, racing the #12 machine in the Nationwide series, and wants him to continue gaining experience in the second tier series.
Rick Hendrick expects his driver to return “home” in the near future: “He’s a heck of a talent,” Hendrick said. “He’ll never be far enough away that I can’t find him and bring him back.”