What a difference a year makes.

Last year, Rousch Fenway Keselowski Racing drivers Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher didn’t make the cutoff for the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs — but this year both drivers qualified with the first postseason race coming up at Darlington on Sunday.

The task was not just on the track, it started at the RFK headquarters in Concord, North Carolina when Keselowski became part owner following the 2021 NASCAR season.

It all started with black toolboxes.

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“If you look in the building, everything is white and black,” Keselowski told NASCAR’s Alex Weaver. “Everything, like anything I’ve touched turns into white and black. Anything that I don’t want people to focus on I turn to white and black.

“Not because I don’t care about it, but because the focus to me is always the race. And recognizing that we’re not just going to get right to title favorites. We have to be crawling, walking and running. That’s what this is broken down into.”

Although Keselowski qualified ninth in the playoff standings, he did so without a win in the No. 6 Ford. The 2012 Cup Series Champion had six Top 5 finishes and 11 in the Top 10.

Buescher’s No. 17 car won three of the last five races, including the 1-2 RFK Racing finish at Daytona on Aug. 26 earning his second career playoff berth since 2016 after winning the Xfinity Series Championship in 2015.

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“The first thing is our goals were no different last year than they are this year,” Buescher told Weaver. “We didn’t quite reach them last year. So, we did a good job of not getting caught up in that, and we fired off really good this year.”

Even though the team didn’t qualify last season, Keselowski knew RFK was moving in the right direction.

“I really felt like we started turning a corner at the end of last year,” Keselowski said. “But by that time the playoffs had started and nobody was focusing on us which was fine.”

Keselowski joked that the team was going through an awkward teenage phase and was happy to be out of the spotlight.

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“We knew our teeth weren’t right so we put braces on. It was very awkward,” Keselowski laughed. “As we were working through it, I could see the progress and I felt like we would have the year we’re having right now at the start of this year. But, you just don’t know how it’s gonna play out.”

Having both cars in the playoffs is an incredible achievement, but Keselowski is not satisfied with just simply making the postseason.

“It’s incredible. It’s a great step forward, but it’s not the goal,” Keselowski said. “We’re still going to measure ourselves based on results. The world is going to measure ourselves based on results.”

Can one of the RFK cars win the 2023 Cup Series Championship?

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“We’re going to need some things to go our way, which you always need,” Keselowski said. “We have enough speed to keep the field on their toes.”

Featured image via David TuckerNews-Journal / USA TODAY Sports Images