If there were any doubts surrounding the potency of RFK Racing heading into the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs this Fall, Chris Buescher completely shattered them with his victory in Monday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan.
The Prosper, Texas native performed a commanding defense against Martin Truex, Jr. in the closing laps of the partially postponed 400-mile contest, against the driver that clearly had the quickest driver in the field on Sunday and Monday.
With the victory at Michigan, Buescher, who was also victorious in last weekend’s event at Richmond Raceway, becomes the third driver in the NextGen era to score back-to-back victories at NASCAR’s top level.
“This Castrol Mustang was so good in practice, qualifying. Gave me a great car again. Had to work for that one too, hard racing at the end,” said Buescher post-race. Martin [Truex, Jr.] was very clean with me. I appreciate that. Get to go to Victory Lane two weeks in a row. That’s pretty awesome.”
The RFK Racing driver didn’t get to just cruise to the finish in Monday’s 200-lap contest either, having to battle against several drivers over the final stage of the event, including Tyler Reddick.
Reddick, driving the No. 45 Rocket League Toyota Camry, was in a fantastic position to score the victory at the two-mile oval – and had even gotten in front of Buescher during the final cycle of green-flag pit stops.
However, a simple execution error by the pit crew of the 23XI Racing team, left Reddick with a loose right-rear wheel, which caused the No. 45 to do a half-spin and turns three and four, before coming back down pit road.
That unforced error relegated Reddick to a finish of 30th, but also ensured that the closing laps of the event would be mano a mano between Buescher and Truex, which provided for a great show in the closing laps.
“I mean, results will do it, right? We’ve got work to do yet,” Buescher said about the progress of RFK Racing. “That’s massive progress right there for us to do at two vastly different racetracks. We got road races coming up. I’m excited for those, too. And Daytona. I look at the schedule we have ahead of us. This is a heck of a time to get turned on and get rolling.”
Although the driver of the No. 19 was credited with taking the lead at Lap 188, his 47th and final lap led of the event, the veteran racer wasn’t able to clear Buescher, resulting in his Joe Gibbs Racing entry snapping loose.
For Truex, who continues to extend his regular-season points lead, another run at the lead wasn’t in the cards, as the Mayetta, New Jersey native came home in second place, 0.152 seconds behind the eventual winner.
Denny Hamlin, a Joe Gibbs Racing teammate to the No. 19, came home in third place, after making a major push from five seconds back to close within two seconds by the conclusion of the race’s final lap.
Brad Keselowski, co-owner of RFK Racing, scored another strong finish at Michigan, his home track, finishing in fourth. Kyle Larson, the only Hendrick Motorsports driver to finish the race, came home in fifth.
Daniel Suarez and Ross Chastain, teammates at Trackhouse Racing, recovered from a rough couple of weeks with finishes of sixth and seventh place, while Kevin Harvick, Ryan Blaney, and Erik Jones completed the top-10.
The event, which spanned two days, featured the most lead changes in a NASCAR Cup Series event at Michigan International Speedway since 2012 (26), amongst 16 different drivers in the field.
After a chaotic start to the event on Sunday, things seemed to calm down in the finishing stages of the event, with only one incident taking place in the race’s final 125 laps, between Alex Bowman, Chase Briscoe, and Todd Gilliland.
Leaving Michigan, Truex holds an astounding 57-point advantage over Denny Hamlin in the regular-season point standings with just three races to go. William Byron sits third, with Christopher Bell and Kevin Harvick in fourth and fifth.
The NASCAR Cup Series heads to Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s Road Course for a highly-anticipated event, which includes the return of Shane Van Gisbergen, and the debut of Brodie Kostecki and Kamui Kobayashi.