Sunday’s race at Martinsville Speedway is a must-win for Chris Buescher’s No. 17 RFK Racing team if they want to extend their time in the NASCAR Cup Series postseason, and crew chief Scott Graves has embraced the scenario.
“For us, it’s really easy: just go and win,” Graves said. “That’s our only mission on this one. This is a lot easier than worrying about one or two points here or there and everything that comes with that.
“Yeah, it’s pretty straightforward, and I think it’ll make calling the race a lot easier. We need to have (track) position at the end of the race, so anything we need to do to set up for that leading into it, we’re going to be doing.”
Buescher is last on the Cup Series playoff grid and 43 points out of a transfer spot. A victory is the most realistic chance for him to advance into the championship race, and Buescher does have a short-track win under his belt from Richmond Raceway in late July.
It is the second postseason appearance for Buescher and the furthest he has advanced. It’s the furthest a Roush car has been in the postseason since 2017, when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. made it into the second round. And Buescher outlasted teammate Brad Keselowski, who was eliminated in the last round.
Although it’s been a season of exceeding expectations, Graves said no one on the No. 17 team is happy with having come this far to only come this far. But having their backs against the wall was the result of being the worst finishing playoff driver in Las Vegas (11th) and a 21st-place finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“There’s definitely some disappointment after the last few weeks; probably our worst two races we’ve had in quite a while and a bad time for that,” Graves said. “That’s a little frustrating, but on the other side, we want to go out fighting. If we’re going out, we want to go out fighting. So, there’s a lot of confidence going into this weekend.
“He’s run well at Martinsville; we had a good car there last spring, just had issues with some pit road things that set us back. But it feels like we can run pretty well, so we’re looking forward to it. … We haven’t let it get to us too much in terms of what we’ve done.”
Buescher has 16 starts at Martinsville with one top-10 finish. His average finish is 19.4 without a lap led. In the spring race, Buescher finished 14th.