By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
BROOKLYN, Mich. — After the completion of the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway, we can hold the following truths to be self-evident:
- Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing is officially “back.”
- Chris Buescher is rapidly gaining elite status as a driver.
- Ford maintained its dominance in the Irish Hills.
- Chase Elliott will have to win one of the next three races to make the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.
- The fastest car didn’t win Sunday’s race.
In an extended, dramatic, nail-biting green-flag run to the finish, Buescher held off hard-charging Martin Truex Jr. to win his second straight Cup Series race.
With team co-owner Brad Keselowski finishing fourth and Buescher winning—the ninth straight victory for Ford drivers at the 2.0-mile speedway—RFK can claim bragging rights as the top Ford team in the Cup garage, at least for now.
When the race resumed at Lap 75 on Monday after a postponement from Sunday because of rain, Chase Elliott’s No. 9 Chevrolet wasn’t on the track, having crashed out in 36th play on Lap 35 the day before.
Elliott’s deficit to the Playoff cut line grew to 55 points; realistically, the 2020 series champion will have to win one of the next three races to avoid missing the postseason for the first time in his career.
Eight days after winning his first race of the season on the .75-mile Richmond Raceway short track, Buescher proved himself a formidable competitor lap after lap in holding off Truex, whose No. 19 Toyota arguably was the fastest car in the race.
With Truex closing the distance between the cars over the final six laps, Buescher roared off Turn 4 and crossed the finish line .152 seconds ahead of the runner-up.
“This Castrol Mustang was so good in practice, qualifying,” said Buescher, who picked up his fourth career victory. “Gave me a great car again. Had to work for that one too, hard racing at the end.
“Martin was very clean with me. I appreciate that. Get to go to Victory Lane two weeks in a row. That’s pretty awesome.”
With 13 laps to go, Truex had his best chance. Buescher slipped slightly off Turn 4, and Truex pulled alongside. The No. 19 Camry edged ahead to the inside, but Buescher doggedly kept Truex beside him for nearly two laps.
Rounding Turn 4 on Lap 188 of 400, Buescher held Truex’s car to the bottom of the track, forcing Truex to slip and lift off the gas. Truex also had to clear the lapped car of Michael McDowell as Buescher opened a gap of 10 car lengths.
That gave Buescher enough of a margin to hold off Truex for the win over the final 11 circuits.
“I think we needed maybe a little bit longer run to wear the tires some more,” said Truex, who swept the first two stages and increased his series lead to 57 points over second-place Denny Hamlin, who finished third on Monday. “I feel like we were a little better. It’s hard to pass the leader on equal tires.
“We had an unbelievable car today. Hats off to everybody that puts in the work on these things… It was a rocket. The leader in clean air is really, really hard to pass. Just didn’t quite have enough. All in all, a good day.
“Tough to get a win here. We’ve been really good in the past. Just can’t get it done. Hopefully, I don’t know, maybe next year.”
Kyle Larson finished fifth, followed by Daniel Suarez, Ross Chastain, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Blaney and Erik Jones. Ty Gibbs came home 11th and supplanted McDowell in the 16th and final Playoff-eligible position. McDowell trails Gibbs by three points, with Suarez five points back.
With Buescher winning his second race and qualifying for the postseason, all the single-race winners this season also clinched Playoff berths on Monday: Christopher Bell, Chastain, Blaney, Joey Logano, Tyler Reddick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Bell, the Michigan pole winner, damaged his car severely with a spin into the wall on Lap 65 on Sunday, but after repeated trips to pit road for repairs, he salvaged a 13th-place result.
NASCAR Cup Series Race – FireKeepers Casino 400
Michigan International Speedway
Sunday, August 6, 2023
1. (4) Chris Buescher, Ford, 200.
2. (5) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 200.
3. (13) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 200.
4. (12) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 200.
5. (17) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 200.
6. (14) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 200.
7. (2) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 200.
8. (22) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 200.
9. (9) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 200.
10. (25) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 200.
11. (3) Ty Gibbs #, Toyota, 200.
12. (20) Austin Cindric, Ford, 200.
13. (1) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 200.
14. (6) Joey Logano, Ford, 200.
15. (31) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 200.
16. (18) Aric Almirola, Ford, 200.
17. (29) Harrison Burton, Ford, 200.
18. (11) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 200.
19. (15) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 200.
20. (34) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 200.
21. (27) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 200.
22. (28) Ryan Preece, Ford, 199.
23. (26) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 199.
24. (23) Michael McDowell, Ford, 199.
25. (33) Cole Custer(i), Ford, 199.
26. (24) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 199.
27. (36) JJ Yeley(i), Ford, 199.
28. (30) Austin Hill(i), Chevrolet, 198.
29. (32) Todd Gilliland, Ford, 197.
30. (16) Tyler Reddick, Toyota, 197.
31. (21) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 197.
32. (37) Josh Bilicki(i), Chevrolet, 196.
33. (19) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, Steering, 134.
34. (35) Josh Berry(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 50.
35. (7) William Byron, Chevrolet, DVP, 46.
36. (10) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, Accident, 34.
37. (8) Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, Accident, 14.
Average Speed of Race Winner: 131.159 mph.
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 2 Mins, 59 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.152 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 9 for 43 laps.
Lead Changes: 26 among 16 drivers.
Lap Leaders: R. Chastain 1-16;M. Truex Jr. 17-46;T. Gibbs # 47;A. Bowman 48-63;C. Bell 64;A. Bowman 65;D. Hamlin 66;J. Bilicki(i) 67;A. Bowman 68-69;T. Reddick 70-76;M. Truex Jr. 77-82;B. Wallace 83-99;M. Truex Jr. 100-103;B. Wallace 104-107;D. Suarez 108-119;M. Truex Jr. 120-122;C. Buescher 123-156;M. Truex Jr. 157-159;R. Blaney 160;B. Keselowski 161-175;K. Larson 176-177;T. Dillon 178-179;A. Dillon 180-181;C. Buescher 182-187;M. Truex Jr. 188;C. Buescher 189-200.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Chris Buescher 3 times for 52 laps; Martin Truex Jr. 6 times for 47 laps; Bubba Wallace 2 times for 21 laps; Alex Bowman 3 times for 19 laps; Ross Chastain 1 time for 16 laps; Brad Keselowski 1 time for 15 laps; Daniel Suarez 1 time for 12 laps; Tyler Reddick 1 time for 7 laps; Ty Dillon 1 time for 2 laps; Kyle Larson 1 time for 2 laps; Austin Dillon 1 time for 2 laps; Ty Gibbs # 1 time for 1 lap; Denny Hamlin 1 time for 1 lap; Ryan Blaney 1 time for 1 lap; Christopher Bell 1 time for 1 lap; Josh Bilicki(i) 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 19,23,54,6,5,99,48,11,43,7
Stage #2 Top Ten: 19,99,6,23,48,5,22,16,2,17