DAYTONA BEACH, FL. - Chris Buescher won for the third time as teammate Brad Keselowski pushed him to victory in the regular season finale at Daytona International Speedway.
The win was Ford’s fourth in the last five races overall and came on a night that saw eight Blue Oval drivers lead a combined 110-of-163 laps. For Buescher, he only led the final two laps as the race went into overtime.
Keselowski finished second and Aric Almirola, who needed a win in order to make the postseason, was third.
Ford also swept the top three spots in qualifying as Chase Briscoe captured the pole and led a race-high 67 laps. Almirola qualified second while Harrison Burton was third.
Briscoe led the first 23 laps before getting shuffled back to 10th at the end of the Stage 1, and it looked like Ryan Blaney might win Stage 2, but he got hit from behind and was sent into the wall ending his night. That accident enabled Keselowski to inherit the lead and the stage victory.
The intensity continued in the final stage with overtime coming about due to an accident that saw Ryan Preece get turned and barrel roll multiple times through the infield. He was able to get out of his car, but was transported to a local hospital. He was held overnight for observation before being released on Sunday morning.
Ford ends the regular season with a manufacturer-best six drivers qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series postseason. Buescher will be joined by Keselowski, defending champion Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Blaney, and Michael McDowell.
The NASCAR Cup Series begins its 10-race playoff season on Sunday, Sept. 3 at Darlington Raceway in the annual Southern 500. Green flag is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET. (USA, MRN, SiriusXM, Peacock).
NCS RACE TOP-10 FINISHERS
1st – Chris Buescher
2nd – Brad Keselowski
3rd – Aric Almirola
4th – Chase Elliott
5th – Joey Logano
6th – Alex Bowman
7th – Kyle Busch
8th – William Byron
9th – Kevin Harvick
10th – Corey LaJoie
REMAINING FORD FINISHERS
13th – Michael McDowell
19th – JJ Yeley
28th – Harrison Burton
30th – Chase Briscoe
31st – Ryan Preece
32nd – Todd Gilliland
36th – Ryan Blaney
37th – Austin Cindric
38th – Riley Herbst
39th – Brennan Poole
CHRIS BUESCHER, No. 17 Fifth Third Bank Ford Mustang – VICTORY LANE INTERVIEW –
“It’s so awesome. 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 work so hard to execute 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.”
YOU’VE WON THREE RACES LATELY. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE PLAYOFFS?
“We certainly have the momentum on our side right now. Shoot, for playoff points that’s a huge step in the right direction. That puts us in a great spot here to head through the first round and all the way to Phoenix, but there are so many races along the way that I feel like we have such a good shot at. To get this done here today, oh man, this is so cool. That’s an RFK win right there. That was as much Brad driving or maybe even more than me down here tonight, but so cool to be right here in Victory Lane.”
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO WIN AT DAYTONA?
“In that sense it’s amazing here. To get one of these things. Superspeedway racing is slowly growing on me. It’s not always been my favorite, but I’m sure enjoying it the last several years. I just want a road course win. It’s time for a road course win somewhere here along the way."
KEVIN HARVICK, No. 4 GEARWRENCH Ford Mustang –
“We knew we were in a bad spot with the two teammates. The Fords could just push so much better than the Chevys. Chase gave me a couple of good shots, but they can’t really stay attached and push because of the shape of their nose, so they just got in front of me. We fought all the way to the end and then they hung me in the middle and we finished ninth, but it was fun.”
THOUGHTS ON THE PLAYOFFS.
“I don’t really know. We’ll just go race every week and see what happens. I don’t want to predict anything.”
ARIC ALMIROLA, No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang –
“I’m just dejected. It was such an amazing race car. Drew and all these guys brought and incredible Smithfield Ford Mustang and we should have won the race. I’m just disappointed. Congrats to RFK. Congrats to Chris Buescher and Brad. I mean, they executed the end of that race flawlessly and they did a great job, but I thought we certainly had a car capable of getting up there and trying to win. Restarting on the third row of a green-white-checker it’s really hard to materialize a run and make something happen and they did a good job.”
RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 Advance Auto Parts Ford Mustang –
“I’m alright. I don’t know. I guess it kind of seems like the 54 got turned into me. The 20 shoved him and it was kind of just a weird spot I guess and I got right-reared, so not in a fun spot. It’s a shame. We had a fast car and came from the back to the front multiple times and thought we made a good move to try to win the stage and just can’t catch a break. Luckily, everyone is alright. We’ll go to next week.”
WHAT DID YOU SEE AND FEEL?
“I didn’t see much. I saw a big white thing that I was headed towards at a rapid mile per hour and then it was over. I guess the 20 kind of got Ty in a weird spot it looked like and just got into my right-rear and off she went. It stinks to end our night that way. We had a fast car and definitely stinks, but we’ll go to next week.”
WERE YOU WAITING FOR IT TO HAPPEN?
“Yeah, I thought it was gonna happen multiple times, but further back in the pack than what it did and not at the lead. There were plenty of times we were three-wide where the fifth row on back could have easily wrecked and we didn’t, and then it figures right when we get the lead I get wrecked, so that’s just the way it goes this day and age sometimes. We’ll just move on from it.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL?
“I’m alright. It’s just a big hit. I’m happy it had a SAFER barrier on it. Yeah, that was large. It’s a big testament to the new front clips. That would have hurt a lot more if we didn’t have the new front clip on it, so that was a positive about that, but still pretty hard.”
DID THE DYNAMIC FEEL ANY DIFFERENT OUT THERE IN THE PACK THAN IT HAS WITH THIS CAR?
“I don’t know, not really. I thought we saw a third lane kind of peek in there for a little bit. It seemed like there was more of a third lane than what it normally is for whatever reason. It would kind of surge and die, but it did seem like you could actually get going in it if you had the right guys pushing you, so, yeah, it was a little bit different dynamic. I think that’s just people getting to the front and there’s urgency to get there because you know it’s hard to do. It’s hard to get to the front. It’s the last race of the regular season and everyone is trying to be super aggressive and just taking all the chances and then eventually people are like, ‘alright, we’ve got nothing to lose, we’re gonna go with you,’ so it changes a little bit.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT DARLINGTON NEXT WEEK?
“I feel a lot better than I do right now. I’m excited to get here to Darlington next week. We’ve been working super hard to get a little better at these racetracks and find some speed. Hopefully, we’re going in the right direction. It’s a hard race next week and it’s a lot about just running all 500 miles really, so hopefully we can do that and have no mistakes and have a good car.”
GLAD YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO WIN AND GET IN TONIGHT?
“I’d be a lot more upset right now if that were the case. It just stinks. I still wish we were racing, but it’s nice to already be locked in. I don’t know who had to win is knocked out in that wreck. It seems like a good amount of people, but it is what it is.”
AUSTIN CINDRIC, No. 2 Menards/Cardell Ford Mustang –
“Obviously, a big wreck off of four. I was kind of at the tail end of the pack, so I’m a little disappointed I couldn’t get checked up and avoid it and still have a shot to win the race tonight, so just disappointed to be in a situation to have to win tonight, but thankful for everybody at Team Penske and the 2 car all year for working their tails off trying to get us a win tonight.”
IT SEEMED LIKE IT WAS INTENSE THE WHOLE RACE. IS IT TOO EARLY FOR THAT?
“No, I totally expected to be, and, look, there are a lot of drivers that know what they’re doing out in the field tonight, so there were a lot of almost wrecks tonight, but it’s kind of a matter of time, in my opinion, especially with putting on two tires – everybody in the field and coming to the end of the stage. We were running faster than we had run all race. I keep looking at my lap times and you know when the intensity picks up when you start running faster lap times. I obviously made the decision that I was far enough back that I should have just bailed and I was kind of half frightened at that point as far as if I was close to the back or not and, obviously, still too close.”
HOW DO YOU TACKLE THE NEXT 10 WEEKS?
“Be the best teammate I can be and try to win some races.”
RILEY HERBST, No. 36 Monster Energy Zero Sugar Ford Mustang –
“I’m OK. That was a lot of fun, especially after yesterday’s mess. It was cool to go up front in the Cup race and learn every lap and had a shot for the stage win. I made a rookie mistake and learned from that, but it was a lot of fun. Thank you to Stewart-Haas Racing and Front Row Motorsport for coming together and giving me a really fast Monster Energy Zero Sugar car and hopefully we can do it again and keep learning.”
NASCAR XFINITY Series (August 25 – Daytona)
- Cole Custer avoided three late multi-car accidents in what became a double-overtime finish to lead Ford with a 5th-place finish at Daytona.
- Riley Herbst suffered a mechanical issue that was fixed early in the race, but he lost multiple laps and finished 24th.
- That problem dropped Herbst below the playoff cutline as he now sits 20 points out of the final transfer position with two races remaining in the regular season.
- Custer has clinched a spot in the playoffs and is 4th in the point standings.
- The NASCAR Xfinity Series continues at Darlington Raceway on Saturday, Sept. 2 at 3:30 p.m. ET (USA, MRN, SiriusXM).
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (August 27 – Milwaukee)
- Matt Crafton led Ford with a 5th-place finish in Sunday’s race at the Milwaukee Mile.
- Ty Majeski was 7th after having to start at the rear of the field.
- Zane Smith was 12th and Ben Rhodes 16th while Hailie Deegan wound up 22nd.
- Majeski has clinched a spot in the Round of 8 while Smith (+29) and Crafton (+9) are currently in transfer positions. Rhodes is 3 points out of the eighth and final spot with one race to go in the Round of 10.
- The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series will conclude its first round of the playoffs after taking a week off when drivers return to the track at Kansas Speedway on Friday, Sept. 8 at 9 p.m. ET (FS1, MRN, Sirius XM).