BRISTOL, Tenn. – Christopher Buescher continued the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs party crasher committee’s winning ways at Bristol Motor Speedway.
No, Buescher was not Jeremy Grey from Wedding Crashers. However, he extended a victory streak by drivers not competing in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.
When this year’s Playoffs kicked off on Sept. 4 at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina, Erik Jones, a non-Playoff competitor, scored a sentimental win for Richard Petty’s No. 43 team.
Last week, Bubba Wallace, another non-Playoff racer, tallied a victory for Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin’s 23XI Racing team at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas.
On Saturday night, RFK Racing, a team with principals like longtime Cup team owner Jack Roush, 2012 Cup champion Brad Keselowski, and Fenway Sports Management, ended a five year winless drought alongside Buescher, who last won at Pocono Raceway on Aug. 1, 2016.
The path to Victory Lane was a long, treacherous one for Buescher and his No. 17 Fastenal Ford Mustang team fielded by RFK Racing. In this case, Buescher started from 20th, a relatively deep starting position at the 0.533-mile concrete oval.
In this case, the 29-year-old Prosper, Texas native wasted little time racing to the front of the field. By the completion of Stage 1, a 125 lap segment, Buescher placed seventh, a respectable result.
Although Buescher placed 14th in Stage 2, another 125 lap leg of the race, he marched his way back to the front in Stage 3.
While the likes of Christopher Bell, Kyle Larson and Brad Keselowski diced it up for the lead from Laps 238 to 439, Buescher bided his time, avoiding the carnage and tire failures beleaguering his fellow Ford comrades and Toyota rivals.
On Lap 440, Larson, a Playoff contender, led the lead lap racers down pit road for the final pit stops of the event. Buescher’s No. 17 pit crew delivered with a clean, efficient stop, changing two tires and refueling his Ford Mustang in a flash, boosting their driver to the lead.
Once Buescher got the lead off pit road, he never looked back. As Larson, Bell, Chase Elliott and William Byron mixed it up for positions within the top five, Buescher held a smooth wheel for the final 61 laps.
Buescher and RFK Racing saw their winless droughts end in welcoming fashion in “Thunder Valley.” The eighth year Cup racer bested Elliott to the start/finish line stripe by 0.458 seconds with Byron, Bell and Larson rounding out the top five.
Following a brief cool down lap, Buescher did a victory burnout along the frontstretch before emerging from his car, raising his arms in victory and jumping on his car’s roof like a rockstar.
“That’s just — the first Cup win for Fastenal for a points-based race, so that’s awesome,” Buescher said. “Glad to have Fastenal on board tonight. Just so special here, Bristol.
“I love this racetrack. I love the fans. I love every time we come here. It’s so special to me. Lost one that really broke our heart back in 2015 on the Xfinity side with Graves on top of the box, so this makes up for that. That’s pretty awesome.”
Certainly, Buescher believed in his No. 17 team, especially on the gutsy decision to change only two tires as opposed to his competitors who opted for four fresh tires.
Perhaps his faith in crew chief Scott Graves extends to their fateful 2015 Xfinity Series season, a year that saw the duo tally that division’s championship ahead of Elliott.
“It was up to me at that point,” he observed. “Just hold on and make it work. We had a really fast Fastenal Mustang. Just so proud of everybody. We knew we had a good race car after practice and didn’t quite get the job done in qualifying, but what a race car.
“It’s just special. Get RFK in Victory Lane for the first time, and we had great race cars.”
Surely, Buescher had the pace to be a Playoff contender. Despite missing the cut prior to Darlington, Buescher soaked in his second career Cup win, perhaps enjoying it even more than his maiden victory in Long Pond, Pennsylvania in 2016.
“This is No. 1 on the list right here. This is it,” he said to the nearly 100,000 race fans in attendance. “Thank you all for coming. That was a great crowd, great weather. We appreciate it. Hope you enjoyed the race. Come back and do it again.”
Buescher and his competitors prepare for a tricky, tough 334-lap race at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas on Sunday, Sept. 25 (3:30 p.m. ET on USA and PRN).
Defending Cup champion Larson hopes to corral his third win of 2022 and punch his ticket into the Round of 8, the penultimate leg of the Playoffs.
Stage 1 Top 10 Finishers
Keselowski-Bell-Ky. Busch-Briscoe-Larson/Bowman-Buescher-Reddick-Byron-Truex Jr.
Stage 2 Top 10 Finishers
Bell-Chastain-Briscoe-Elliott-Ky. Busch/Bowman-Byron-A. Dillon-Larson-Harvick
Bristol Night Race Top 10 Finishers