Chris Buescher leads RFK 1-2 finish in the regular-season finale at Daytona

Chris Buescher leads RFK 1-2 finish in the regular-season finale at Daytona

Chris Buescher won the NASCAR Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway which is the final race of the regular season.

Chris Buescher won the final race of the NASCAR Cup Series regular season on Saturday night in Daytona as Bubba Wallace clinched the 16th and last playoff berth.

Buescher, who won the 2015 NASCAR Xfinity Series championship, started the race from position 11 and managed to finish in first place while maintaining control of his car the entire time.

The 30-year-old RFK driver overcame Kevin Harvick in a two-lap overtime run to claim his third victory in the last five Cup Series races. With the aid of Brad Keselowski, who is his teammate from RFK Racing, Buescher and the No. 17 crew won the Coke Zero Sugar 400 during overtime.

Once the green flag flew for the restart, the RFK duo was lined up nose-to-tail in the outside lane and quickly overtook the leader, Kevin Harvick, who had opted for the bottom lane.

Buescher lead Keselowski to victory marking the first 1-2 finish for RFK Racing since 2014.

Buescher’s triumph marked his fifth career win in the premier series and his first at Daytona, making him the fourth different racer to win at least three races during the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season.

Buescher, who qualified for the Playoffs for the second time in his career and for the first time since 2016, will start the 10-week Playoff run next weekend at Darlington Raceway in fourth place with a total of 2,021 points. He will be battling for this year’s championship in the playoffs.

“I owe Brad Keselowski A little more than [the push],” Buescher said on NBC. “That was amazing.

“So proud to get Fifth Third Bank into Victory Lane here at Daytona. I knew we were coming here with fast [Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing] Ford Mustangs and got there at the end and showed when it counted.

“That’s as much Brad’s win as ours right there. That was the right help. Aggressive, sticking with us, too, all the way to the line.

“I was waiting for him to do something there coming to the finish. I figured we’d be side-by-side, but looked like he got stalled out a little behind.

“Just so thankful to Brad for all those pushes there at the right time. [This season]’s hard to explain. It’s awesome, though. To be sitting here again [as a winner] so quickly.

“What a heck of a start into the Playoffs right now. It’s been a long time coming, a lot of work. So amazing for us.”

Third place went to Aric Almirola, fourth place went to Chase Elliott, and fifth place went to Joey Logano. For Almirola and Elliott to advance to the playoffs, they needed to win the Daytona race.

In order of finishing positions, Alex Bowman came in sixth, Kyle Busch seventh, William Byron eighth, Harvick dropped to ninth, and Corey LaJoie came in tenth. Bowman and LaJoie also required a victory to advance to the playoffs.

Wallace qualified for the playoffs for the first time after placing 12th, missing a 12-car incident on lap 95 that eliminated a few other competitors who required a win to advance. Given Buescher’s record of victories, the 23XI Racing driver secured the last available berth through points.

Martin Truex Jr. came in at 24th place and secured the title as the regular season champion, which came with an additional 15 playoff points.

A severe crash by Ryan Preece with six laps remaining triggered overtime. Preece collided with teammate Chase Briscoe of Stewart-Haas Racing after being struck from behind on the backstretch. Preece’s car plowed into the grass, went flying, rolled a number of times, and finally came to rest on its wheels.

Preece exited the No. 41 car and was carried away on a stretcher. He was initially taken to the infield medical center before being sent to a nearby hospital.

Daniel Suarez, rookie Ty Gibbs, Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, AJ Allmendinger, Austin Cindric, Aric Almirola, Justin Haley, Corey LaJoie, Ryan Preece, Todd Gilliland, Erik Jones, Austin Dillon, Harrison Burton, Chase Briscoe and Ty Dillon are the remaining full-time drivers who did not make the Playoffs.

There were three yellow flags and 22 lead changes involving 17 drivers. Keselowski won the second stage, while Truex took first.

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