Photo: Logan T. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Buescher Wins at Daytona, Preece Transported to Hospital After Violent Crash

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The RFK Racing duo of Chris Buescher and Brad Keselowski were up to their old superspeedway tricks again Saturday night at Daytona, with Buescher capturing his third win of the season in the Coke Zero Sugar 400.

Both Buescher and Keselowski were in the mix throughout the night, but when the race was pushed into overtime after a violent crash by Ryan Preece, it was go time for the two Ford drivers with Buescher lining up just ahead of his team owner Keselowski on the outside lane for the final restart.

From the drop of the green, Keselowski never left Buescher’s rear bumper, pushing his driver clear of the contenders behind. Though Kevin Harvick and others threw some shots at the pair over the course of the final lap and a half, they were just too strong as they sailed across the finish line for a 1-2 finish.

“It’s so awesome.  So proud to get Fifth Third Bank in Victory Lane here with this Ford Mustang,” Buescher said. 

“What a heck of a push from Brad in those closing laps for that entire restart.  We lined up and worked to get connected.  We hardly came disconnected those last couple of laps and it was a little squirrely at times, but that’s what we work so hard to execute superspeedway racing for two years now.  We’ve been so close.  We’ve been within the last five laps of so many of these things to finally get it done here tonight is special.”

Just a month ago, Buescher was fighting for his Playoff life, sitting 13th in points, but with three wins in the last five races, the 30-year-old native of Prosper, Texas has the momentum at his back heading into the postseason. After the reset, Buescher sits fourth in the standings, by far the best shot at the Playoffs he has had thus far in his career.

“We certainly have the momentum on our side right now,” Buescher said. “Shoot, for playoff points that’s a huge step in the right direction.  That puts us in a great spot here to head through the first round and all the way to Phoenix, but there are so many races along the way that I feel like we have such a good shot at.  To get this done here today, oh man, this is so cool. 

“That’s an RFK win right there.  That was as much Brad driving or maybe even more than me down here tonight, but so cool to be right here in Victory Lane.”

While Keselowski would have loved to take the win for himself as he is in the midst of a winless season himself, but explained afterwards that he was thinking big picture at the end of the race to deliver the first 1-2 finish for his organization in several years.

“Just a really great day for RFK,” Keselowski said “A few weeks we were sitting down, kind of going over the goal and visions, what we value. One of the things we brought up was 1-2 finishes. It’s been a long time since this company has had 1-2 finishes.

 “Of course, I wanted to be the one on the front of that. Proud nonetheless of Chris and his efforts and both teams, where they’ve grown and come together. Doing all the right things to grow us and to just take us to that next level.

“Today was just another kind of feather in our cap. We’re really proud.”

In a bizarre turn of events, Keselowski being in position to push Buescher to the win almost never happened.

While sitting in the lead following a crash and red flag at the end of the second stage, the 2012 Cup Series champion noticed smoke starting to emulate from the left front of his No. 6 Mustang and though the field was under red flag conditions, he knew he had to do something or his night might be over in a hurry.

Comically, Keselowski began driving his car around in circles on the apron of the track in an effort to get the smoke and flames to subside. His actions, though questionably legal, worked and he stayed in the race.

As they say, the rest is history.

“I was sitting there under red flag, it just started smoking really big out of the left front rocker panel,” Keselowski explained. “I knew that meant it was about to catch fire and I was going to get knocked out of the race.

“The only way to stop that was to get air moving through the car. Being under red flag, I had to improvise. There was a pad at the bottom of the racetrack. I knew I couldn’t drive around the racetrack without getting in serious trouble, but I figured I could get away with driving on that pad.

“I just ran on that pad until the flames and the smoke disappeared and called it good.”

Aric Almirola, who needed a win to be able to move into the Playoffs finished third, just ahead of Chase Elliott, who also missed the Playoffs without a win. Joey Logano rounded out the top-five.

Sixth-place went to Alex Bowman, who also needed to win Saturday night, with the remainder of the top-10 going to Kyle Busch, William Byron, Kevin Harvick, and Corey Lajoie.

With Buescher’s win, Bubba Wallace was able to secure the 16th and final berth in the Playoffs, marking the first time he will enter the final 10 races eligible for the championship.

A year after missing out on the Playoffs, Martin Truex, Jr. was able to accumulate enough points to lock down the regular season championship and the 15 Playoff points that go with it to give him a decided advantage heading into next weekend’s postseason opener at Darlington.

Ryan Preece Goes for Wild Ride, Transported to Hospital for Further Evaluation

Racing at superspeedway always delivers heart-stopping moments and there was none more so than the ride Ryan Preece went through with five laps to go Saturday night.

The driver of the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford had recovered from a mechanical issue early in the race to be in the fight for the win late, finding himself inside the top-15 following the final round of pit stops.

While running down the backstretch, a bump from behind sent his car spinning sideways, where he made contact with his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Chase Briscoe, turning his car broadside heading toward the infield.

Moments later, Preece’s car blew over and began its violent tumble through the grass, flipping more than 10 times before his battered machine came to rest right side up.

Safety officials rushed to his aid, where he was able to climb from his car under his own power before being put on a stretcher and heading to the Infield Care Center.

Following evaluation there, he was taken to a local hospital for more precautionary testing, with Preece providing an update on social media later in the night that he was OK following the most harrowing Cup Series crash in recent memory.

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.