Buescher runs to victory lane at rain-delayed Michigan Cup Series race

Published 8:23 pm Monday, August 7, 2023

BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) — Chris Buescher has earned half of his four career NASCAR Cup Series victories in a stunning, nine-day stretch of success.

Buescher won his second straight NASCAR Cup Series race by holding off points leader Martin Truex late in the FireKeepers 400 Monday and is surging with his top performances toward the end of the regular season.

The race was suspended by rain after 74 of 200 laps were completed Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, then finished Monday afternoon.

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“It’s certainly very good timing as we head into the playoffs in a few short weeks,” said the 30-year-old Buescher, who was in the No. 17 Ford for RFK Racing.

Buescher, who won last week at Richmond, led 52 of the 200 laps. With 12 laps left, Truex challenged him with door-to-door driving before sparks were seen under his No. 19 Toyota and he faded.

“I felt like we were a little better, but it is just really hard to pass the leader on equal tires,” Truex said.

Truex made a savvy move to win Stage 2. Shortly after pitting, he went high before dropping low to surge past Daniel Suarez and finished second to earn a 57-point lead over Denny Hamlin in the standings.

“He was a rocket most of the day and for Chris to hold him off is really impressive,” said Brad Keselowski, who was proud of his fourth-place finish as a driver and win as a part-owner of RFK Racing.

Hamlin was third, followed by Keselowski and Kyle Larson.

Buescher gave Ford its ninth straight victory at Michigan to extend the longest winning streak by a manufacturer at a track that has hosted Cup races since 1969.

“To be here in Ford’s backyard and get this done and have so many Ford folks with us here, it is a special weekend,” he said. “You always have a little more on your shoulders here.”

Buescher became the first Cup driver to win consecutive races since Byron had victories at Las Vegas and Phoenix in March. He’s the first RFK driver to have consecutive victories since 2010, and the first to win multiple times in a year for the organization since 2017.

“I kind of like being an underdog and under the radar,” said Scott Graves, Buescher’s crew chief. “But I also know with a couple wins, it’s hard to hide.”

The race was suspended Sunday due to rain, which delayed the start and later led to a red-flag stoppage that lasted 19-plus hours before the race resumed under cloudy skies the next day.

Two of the top drivers didn’t make it to Monday. Many of the fans that filled the stands and the infield on Sunday, giving the track one of its biggest crowds in years, did not return to see the end of the race.

William Byron and Kyle Busch, who have a combined seven wins this year, were knocked out of the competition on the first day of the two-day race. Busch spun out and hit a wall after making side-by-side contact with Ryan Blaney early in the race. Byron ran into a wall without anyone around him shortly after Truex won the first stage.

“I put myself in a bad spot,” Busch said. “I really hate that I did that.”

Chase Elliott lost control after just 34 laps Sunday due to a tire failure.

“It was really early in the day to have a tire blow like that,” the Hendrick Motorsports star said. “It was really weird. It’s a bummer, but not surprised. Add it to the list.”

Elliott missed six Cup races with a broken left tibia that he suffered in a March 3 snowboarding accident.

The 2020 Cup champion, winless this year, is No. 22 in points and likely needs to win one of the last three races in the regular season to earn a spot in the playoffs.

The series shifts to the Indianapolis Road Course — where Tyler Reddick won last year — for the Verizon 200 on Sunday.

Another road course race at Watkins Glen follows on Aug. 20, and then the regular season concludes at Daytona on Aug. 26. The Cup Series playoffs start Sept. 3 with the Southern 500 at Darlington.