Chris Buescher closed the NASCAR Cup Series regular season Saturday night in Daytona with his third victory as Bubba Wallace claimed the 16th and final playoff spot.
Buescher and the No. 17 team prevailed in overtime of the Coke Zero Sugar 400 with the help of RFK Racing teammate Brad Keselowski. The two lined up nose-to-tail in the outside lane for the restart, easily overtaking leader Kevin Harvick, who chose the bottom lane, when the green flag flew.
A 1-2 finish for @RFKracing!
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) August 27, 2023
Buescher led Keselowski across the finish line in the first 1-2 for RFK Racing since 2014. It is Buescher’s fifth career victory in the Cup Series.
“It’s so awesome,” Buescher said. “So proud to get Fifth Third Bank in victory lane here with this Ford Mustang. 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 worked so hard to execute [in] 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.”
Aric Almirola finished third, Chase Elliott finished fourth and Joey Logano finished fifth. Almirola and Elliott needed a victory to make the playoffs.
Alex Bowman finished sixth, Kyle Busch seventh, William Byron eighth, Harvick faded to a ninth-place finish and Corey LaJoie finished 10th. A win was also necessary for Bowman and LaJoie.
Wallace finished 12th to earn his first postseason berth and did so after missing a 12-car wreck on lap 95 that eliminated a handful of other drivers who needed a victory in their playoff hunt. The 23XI Racing driver clinched the final spot via points because Buescher was a repeat winner.
Martin Truex Jr. finished 24th and was crowned the regular season champion — an honor (along with its 15 additional playoff points) he clinched after the second stage.
Overtime was set up by a violent crash by Ryan Preece with six laps to go. Preece was hit from behind on the backstretch and sent to the left, colliding with Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Chase Briscoe. When Preece’s car hit the grass, it went airborne and then proceeded to roll multiple times before coming to rest on its wheels.
Preece climbed from the No. 41 car and was put on a stretcher. After initially being taken to the infield care center, he was transported to a local medical facility.
There were 22 lead changes among 17 drivers and three caution flags at Daytona. Truex won the first stag and Keselowski won the second.
The NASCAR Cup Series now moves on to Darlington for the Cook Out Southern 500 Sept. 3 at 6 p.m. ET.