• Sat. Apr 1st, 2023

Chris Buescher wins mechanical attrition battle at Bristol

BySean Clark

Sep 18, 2022
Chris Buescher Bristol win

Photo courtesy of Sean Gardner | Getty Images

The Bristol Night Race made its debut with the Next Gen car and with steering and tire issues plaguing playoff and non-playoff drivers alike, the race turned into a war of mechanical attrition.

In the end, it was a non-playoff driver that finished the sweep of the Round of 16 NASCAR Cup Series postseason as Chris Buescher capped off Rousch Fenway-Keselowski Racing’s best race of the season with their first victory of the new charter.

“It’s special to get RFK in victory lane for the first time, Brad had really good speed too,” Buescher said after the race. “It’s number one on the list right here. This is it! We knew we had a good race car after practice and I didn’t quite get the job done in qualifying.”

Buescher gained the advantage after a myriad of pit road issues plagued the other leaders. Kyle Larson, who won the 2021 Bristol night race, had an issue on pit road as the leader. Kevin Harvick, who entered the race needing a win to advance into the Round of 12, and Denny Hamlin lost a tire during their pit exit and suffered a slow release back onto the track.

He held off Chase Elliott for the victory over the final 57 laps.

Harvick’s issue forced him to settle for a 10th-place finish. After DNFs at Darlington and Kansas, he has been eliminated from the Round of 16 despite winning at Michigan and Richmond in August.

“We pitted in front of the No. 17, went from having a chance to lead the parade to being a part of the parade, difficult to pass here,” Harvick said. “The car went way too fast through the corners, can’t race.”

On laps 414 and 433, Brad Keselowski and Christopher Bell, the two stage winners,  suffered flat tires while in the lead, forcing them to pit. Bell, the only driver to secure advancement before the race even began, recovered for a P4 finish. Keselowski, who won the first stage by staying out all 125 laps, finished P13.

Kyle Busch came into the race two points below the cutline in his final season with Joe Gibbs Racing. Throughout the first two stages, Busch gained 14 stage points, putting him above the cutline. That all came crashing down on Lap 271. Busch blew an engine and immediately retired after parking his car in the garage.

“I don’t even know what to say,” Busch said. “I’m flabbergasted.”

This opened the door for Austin Cindric, who came into the points two points above the cutline, to gain points while passing other cars that wrecked. On Lap 278, two laps after the restart, a huge wreck occurred between Alex Bowman, Tyler Reddick, Daniel Suárez and Austin Dillon.

While Suárez and Bowman survived to the next round, Dillon and Reddick were not as fortunate. Dillon retired from the race and Reddick could not make the laps back up with various issues throughout the night.

Cindric was the beneficiary as despite having a flat tire early in the race, he gained enough points with a P20 finish to advance to the Round of 12 by two points. It salvaged a disastrous night for Team Penske as Ryan Blaney had many issues early on and Joey Logano went to the garage in the final stage.

In the end, all three Penske drivers advanced to the Round of 12.

“Came into +2, left +2, just how we drew it up,” Cindric said. “All of us [are] in the Round of 12 after a very scary night for Team Penske. Tried to do my job, hang in there and gut it out. I drove my butt off, it’s what it takes.”

After Cindric’s end run, it officially eliminated Busch from the Round of 16 for the first time in his entire career, marking a disappointing end to his legendary JGR tenure.

The NASCAR Cup Series Round of 12 will kick off at Texas Motor Speedway next Sunday, Sep. 25 with the EchoPark Automotive 500. Coverage for that race will begin at 3:30 p.m. EST.

NOTE: Post-race inspection in the NASCAR Cup Series garage is complete. There were no issues, confirming Chris Buescher’s win.

The Nos. 4, 20 and 24 cars will return to the R&D Center for teardown inspection.

Official Results: 


Official Playoff Standings: