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Chris Buescher Prospers to Cook Out 400 Victory at Richmond

Chris Buescher celebrated like Jay Gatsby at Richmond Raceway. (Photo: Wayne Riegle | The Podium Finish)

RICHMOND, Va. – Much like Johnny Nash sang in 1972, Chris Buescher and RFK Racing can see clearly now that the rain is gone from their organization.

Buescher, who took over the No. 17 Fastenal Ford Mustang entry in 2020 from Ricky Stenhouse Jr., endured some of the final struggles from RFK’s previous form in Roush Fenway Racing. When the 2020 and 2021 seasons are considered, Buescher mustered three top fives and 16 top 10 results, placing 21st and 19th in the championship standings.

Last year, Buescher saw dramatic improvements from a performance standpoint, tallying the Bristol Night Race win, three top fives and 10 top 10 results. Despite placing 21st in the championship rankings, the Prosper, Texas native started to reestablish himself as a frontrunner in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Prior to the Cook Out 400 at Richmond Raceway, Buescher nearly duplicated his 2022 season stats just 22 races into this year with three top fives and eight top 10s, good enough to rank 13th in the standings and above the cutoff line.

The 30-year-old racer had his work cut out for him before taking on “The Action Track” by starting 26th in the field of 36 drivers and teams. Slowly but surely, the two-time Cup winner methodically drove his way through the field.

Placing 17th in Stage 1, the Texan improved to a runner-up result in Stage 2. While the 23XI Racing Toyota entries of Tyler Reddick, the pole sitter, and Bubba Wallace led for a combined 161 laps, Buescher and Brad Keselowski, his RFK Racing teammate, made their presence known when it mattered.

Similarly, as Buescher and Keselowski asserted themselves toward the front of the field, the race took on a long, green flag complexion nary of any cautions aside from stage breaks. With little to no time to make drastic adjustments, Buescher’s No. 17 Fastenal Ford Mustang team continually did their homework to return to their race winning contender status.

Scott Graves, Buescher’s crew chief, kept working on No. 17 entry to further establish the Texan as a bonafide challenger for the win. As early race dominators relegated down the scoring order, the ninth year Cup racer and his hardy team were relentless in their quest for a Richmond victory.

Initially, Buescher took the lead from Martin Truex Jr. on Lap 305, leading the way for 35 laps before surrendering the number one spot during a pit stop cycle inside the race’s final 61 laps. Nevertheless, the Texan was not going to be denied with his latest trek into Victory Lane.

On this occasion, Buescher staved off a determined Denny Hamlin by 0.549 seconds, a pivotal win that clinched a coveted Playoffs spot. The mild mannered driver credited Graves for keeping him in the hunt with sage advice.

There was no stopping Buescher from his third career Cup win. (Photo: Wayne Riegle | The Podium Finish)

“I don’t get too stirred up most of the time,” Buescher said with a laugh. “I was sitting there and we had a nice easy lead going there. I was taking care of it and then shifting and about the time Scott came on the radio and said, ‘Let’s work it just like that. Keep it smooth.’

“I don’t think he even got off the button and caution.  So, I knew it was gonna take some work to get back going, but our Fastenal Mustang was so good firing off today, so good in practice.”

After a struggle in Saturday’s qualifying session, Buescher more than made it up to his team on Sunday afternoon. Clearly, the young racer kept cool while believing in his team with their stellar execution.

“I didn’t get the job done in qualifying,” he said. “I had to pass a bunch of cars today and have some great strategy and some great pit stops. Everybody at RFK Racing who has worked so hard to get us to this point. This is awesome. I knew that last restart was gonna be tough, but I knew we had the speed in this thing.”

Hamlin may have come up short in his quest to win his third race of the 2023 season. Altogether, he could understand the hard work and significance of RFK’s incredible progress in the past 18 months.

“It was going to be luck for us to get a caution to get a second chance to go at him there,” Hamlin said. “They deserved it. RFK, hats off to them. I know how hard they’ve worked to get to this point. Proud of them, and proud of this whole Mavis Toyota team to get to this second place finish.”

Kyle Busch rounded out the podium finishers with a workmanlike effort as the highest finishing Chevrolet racer. The Richard Childress Racing driver was pleased nonetheless with the hustle and determination that resulted in a well earned boost at the short tracks.

“I ran the heck out of this engine today,” Busch said. “I think I spent most of the race in fourth gear, while almost everybody else was in fifth gear. It just helped me the way I was driving and it got us a good, third place finish. We needed something like this to be solid on the short tracks and to get our momentum heading in the right direction.”

Sunday’s Cook Out 400 at Richmond belonged to Buescher and his No. 17 team. (Photo: Wayne Riegle | The Podium Finish)

Fittingly, Sunday’s race winner hailed from a state in which heat and humidity are prevalent in his home state. It seemed fitting for the pride of Prosper, Texas to tally a victory of Lone Star state proportions and conditions.

“I love it when it gets hot and slick out here,” Buescher said. “I like searching for grip. I like that line moving around and it made it fun. I felt like the spring race we were pretty decent, but didn’t have everything go our way. That was just textbook execution from everybody.

“We had a clean day, good strategy, good pit stops, good choices and that got us here to Victory Lane with our Fastenal Mustang.  I just feel that the hot, slick weather lets us move around and chase what we need to have that speed in our race cars.”

Stage 1 Top 10 Results
  1. Tyler Reddick
  2. Bubba Wallace
  3. Denny Hamlin
  4. Chase Elliott
  5. Kevin Harvick
  6. Ryan Preece
  7. William Byron
  8. Aric Almirola
  9. Brad Keselowski
  10. Ty Gibbs (R)
Stage 2 Top 10 Results
  1. Brad Keselowski
  2. Chris Buescher
  3. Tyler Reddick
  4. Bubba Wallace
  5. Denny Hamlin
  6. Kyle Busch
  7. Ryan Preece
  8. Martin Truex Jr.
  9. Ty Gibbs (R)
  10. Joey Logano
Cook Out 400 at Richmond Raceway Race Results
Finish Start Car No. Driver Sponsor/Make Status
1 26 17 Chris Buescher Fastenal Ford Running
2 3 11 Denny Hamlin Mavis Tires & Brakes Toyota Running
3 2 8 Kyle Busch X World Wallet Chevrolet Running
4 23 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil Ford Running
5 11 41 Ryan Preece United Rentals Ford Running
6 13 6 Brad Keselowski Ford Running
7 10 19 Martin Truex Jr. Bass Pro Shops Toyota Running
8 24 10 Aric Almirola Smithfiled Ford Running
9 17 3 Austin Dillon Bass Pro Shops Club Chevrolet Running
10 8 4 Kevin Harvick Rheem Ford Running
11 20 14 Chase Briscoe Rush Truck Centers Ford Running
12 5 23 Bubba Wallace McDonald’s Toyota Running
13 4 9 Chase Elliott UniFirst Chevrolet Running
14 25 12 Ryan Blaney BodyArmor Ford Running
15 7 54 Ty Gibbs (R) He Gets Us Toyota Running
16 1 45 Tyler Reddick XFINITY 10G Network Toyota Running
17 9 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Kleenex Chevrolet Running
18 15 48 Alex Bowman Ally Chevrolet Running
19 14 5 Kyle Larson Chevrolet Running
20 29 20 Christopher Bell MAC Tools Toyota Running
21 6 24 William Byron Liberty University Chevrolet Running
22 18 34 Michael McDowell StageFront VIP Ford Running
23 27 43 Erik Jones Allegiant Chevrolet Running
24 19 1 Ross Chastain Worldwide Express Chevrolet Running
25 16 38 Todd Gilliland Speedy Cash Ford Running
26 30 2 Austin Cindric Menards/Jack Links Ford Running
27 36 16 AJ Allmendinger Action Industries Chevrolet Running
28 12 42 Noah Gragson (R) Sunseeker Resort Chevrolet Running
29 32 51 Ryan Newman Parts Plus/Biohaven Ford Running
30 28 31 Justin Haley LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet Running
31 22 21 Harrison Burton DEX Imaging Ford Running
32 31 7 Corey LaJoie FOE Chevrolet Running
33 33 99 Daniel Suárez Jockey Chevrolet Running
34 34 77 Ty Dillon Gainbridge Chevrolet Running
35 35 15 JJ Yeley Patriot Mobile Ford Running
36 21 78 BJ McLeod FREEDOMWORSHERE.COM Chevrolet Running

Rob Tiongson is a 30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught his eyes. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by him or by one of his talented columnists who have a passion for racing. Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. He enjoys editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography. Moreover, he enjoys time with his family and friends, traveling, cooking, working out and being a fun uncle or "funcle" to his nephew, niece and cat. Tiongson, a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication, pursues his Master of Arts in Digital Journalism at St. Bonaventure University. Indeed, while Tiongson is proud to be from Massachusetts, he's an everywhere kind of man residing in Texas.

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