NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski has said more than once that his lower-level Camping World Truck Series team loses about $1 million annually, but that he keeps doing it because the team is what’s “in [his] heart.” But after this year, Keselowski said the team will be no more “for a number of reasons.”
Keselowski races for Team Penske in the top-level Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, and won the 2012 championship. He also owns Brad Keselowski Racing, a team his website says he started in 2007 and that runs two entries in the Truck Series. Keselowski’s race team isn’t to be confused with BK Racing, a Cup Series team that NBC Sports reported earlier in August owes nearly $700,000 to the IRS for three tax liens in less than a year.
But Keselowski had money issues of his own with Brad Keselowski Racing. ESPN reports that Keselowski has said repeatedly over the years that he loses about $1 million annually to run trucks in the lowest tier of NASCAR’s top three national touring series, and said recently he decided he won’t be fielding a team in 2018.
The two drivers on Keselowski’s truck team, Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric, are fourth and 10th in the championship standings after the most recent race at Bristol Motor Speedway, respectively. Both are in their rookie season, and the team has yet to win a race this year.
Here’s what Keselowski told ESPN about the decision:
“The Truck Series is truly special to me given my family’s ties to the history of the sport, and this decision comes with much contemplation,” Keselowski said. “But, for a number of reasons, and as I plan for the long-term future, I’ve decided not to field a team in 2018.” ...
The 33-year-old Keselowski said he hopes to one day field cars in the NASCAR Cup Series, and this move is part of that plan. “I’ve never made it a secret that I would eventually like to be an owner at the top level of the sport,” Keselowski said. “And, while this is many years down the line, I want to start to prepare for that possibility now.
“Part of that preparation is seeking to develop an advanced engineering and manufacturing company that would be housed out of our 78,000-square-foot facility in Statesville [North Carolina] and ultimately help to support this vision.”
Keselowski told MRN the team lost $1 million in 2014 as well. While finances weren’t the only factor behind his decision, MRN quoted him as saying the following about them:
“The role that I have as an owner in the Truck Series is not about the financials,” he said. “There’s a lot better investments.”
Keselowski, who grew up in a racing family, continues to operate the team despite the losses to reinvest in the sport.
“It’s what is in my heart,” he said. “I know that people and all the other things that come with that team will serve me down the road.”
Keselowski leaving the Truck Series means only one active, full-time Cup Series driver, Kyle Busch, will own a team after this year. Even that’s in jeopardy, since Busch said in the midst of NASCAR cutting down on Cup Series driver starts in lower series that he wouldn’t field a team if he couldn’t race in the series.
ESPN reported recently that sponsorship concerns are big in NASCAR’s lower levels, too, and that fielding a top truck team costs about $3 million to $4 million annually. Keselowski told ESPN that he probably wouldn’t have shut the team down if it weren’t losing money, all other factors considered:
“It wasn’t really one reason, but certainly at some point every business needs to have some profitability,” Keselowski said. “I never went into it expecting to make money, so I can’t really blame that.
“Everybody’s losing a little. That was one of the factors. I wouldn’t say it was the only one.”
Keselowski, who did have some sponsorship already in place next year, said he didn’t think he could have operated the team without losing money even if his team had won more races or a championship.
The thing that hits hard there is that Keselowski told ESPN he doesn’t think he could profit even with a championship-winning team. If accurate, that isn’t just bad for Keselowski, but the sport in general.
To see whether Keselowski’s team finance situation is normal, Jalopnik reached out to Kyle Busch Motorsports, the only other truck team owned by a Cup Series driver, to see if the organization is profitable or for enjoyment. The team won last year’s owner championship in the series, but lost out on the driver side.
A spokesperson for the team got back to Jalopnik with the below from Kyle Busch, who said his NASCAR truck team does in fact operate at a loss.
“I race in the Truck Series because I love to race, but it is also a business,” Busch said. “Being able to bring in sponsorship for the races that I drive helps subsidize the costs for our other teams in the building based on economies of scale.
“We are not going to comment on the amount of personal money I contribute, but just by saying that tells you that we operate at a loss. Too big of a loss or not having enough fun would make KBM seriously consider the alternative.”
ESPN reports that Keselowski’s team is the second top Truck Series team to shut down this year, with Red Horse Racing closing up in May. It’s unfortunate to see teams leave the series that produces some of the best racing in the top levels of NASCAR, but finances and other business interests talk—and usually, you have to listen.