DAYTONA BEACH — Brad Keselowski drove his new team to Victory Lane Thursday night in a Daytona 500 qualifying race. His new teammate wasn’t fair behind.
It was a banner day for Keselowski in his new role as part-owner of Jack Roush’s organization. The team has been rebranded Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing and Keselowski now drives its flagship No. 6 Ford.
He has a long-term vision for RFK and returning the team to one of NASCAR’s elite is not an overnight fix. But the win in the first of two 150-mile qualifying races means Keselowski has a fast Daytona 500 car.
Keselowski is 0 for 12 in “The Great American Race” and was involved in a fiery last-lap crash while racing for the win last year. He threw his helmet in disgust at his car that night, furious he didn’t deliver the win he’d promised his dying father. Bob Keselowski lost his battle with cancer last December and Keselowski won Thursday night with a decal on his new No. 6 that honors his father.
Teammate Chris Buescher then won the second race when he and leader Joey Logano made contact on the final lap, sending Logano into the wall and Buescher to the win.
The RFK Racing teammates will start on the second row in Sunday’s season-opening race. NASCAR champion Kyle Larson and his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman locked down the front row in Wednesday nighttime trials.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. will make his NASCAR debut on Sunday when The Money Team Racing starts the Daytona 500. Kaz Grala drove the No. 50 Chevrolet into the race with a pass of J.J. Yeley on the 60th and final lap.
Six teams came to Daytona battling for four “open” spots in Sunday’s 40-car field. Two spots were filled in time trials — former Formula One champion Jacques Villeneuve will make his Daytona 500 debut, as will Noah Gragson for Beard Motorsports — and one spot was available in each of the two qualifying races.
Grala had to be the highest finisher among the “open” teams and got Mayweather into the Daytona 500 with an 18th-place finish.
Roush had won a Daytona qualifier only once before, in 2012 when Matt Kenseth won both the short race and then the 500.