BRISTOL, Tenn. - A year ago, Chris Buescher was celebrating his first win with Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing after taking the Bristol Night Race and while he wasn’t able to repeat that triumph, he did the next-best thing by leading Ford with a fourth-place finish and advancing to the Round of 12.
Michael McDowell, who was in a must-win situation in order to advance, was in the top-10 all night long, but came up just short as he finished sixth. Brad Keselowski made it three Ford drivers in the top 10 with an eighth-place run and joined teammate Buescher in advancing to the Round of 12.
Ryan Blaney, despite finishing 22nd, also made it through and joined Buescher and Keselowski as Ford drivers still alive for the championship.
The night wasn’t as good for Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick. Both came into the event above the cut line, but Logano’s hopes of repeating his title from a year ago essentially ended on lap 262 when Corey LaJoie hit the inside wall. The momentum from that impact sent his Chevrolet back up the track where he hit Logano in the left-rear tire. That ended Logano’s night with a 34th-place finish.
Harvick wasn’t involved in any on-track accidents, but struggled all night after qualifying 21st. He went a lap down on lap 176 and never recovered, eventually finishing 29th and missing out on advancing to the Round of 12.
The NASCAR Cup Series Round of 12 begins on Sunday, September 24 at Texas Motor Speedway at 3:30 p.m. ET (USA, PRN, SiriusXM, NBC Sports Live Stream).
NCS RACE TOP-10 FINISHERS
1st – Denny Hamlin
2nd – Kyle Larson
3rd – Christopher Bell
4th – Chris Buescher
5th – Ty Gibbs
6th – Michael McDowell
7th – Chase Elliott
8th – Brad Keselowski
9th – William Byron
10th – Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
REMAINING FORD FINISHERS
12th – Ryan Preece
16th – Todd Gilliland
18th – Aric Almirola
22nd – Ryan Blaney
26th – JJ Yeley
27th – Chase Briscoe
28th – Harrison Burton
29th – Kevin Harvick
32nd – Austin Cindric
34th – Joey Logano
36th – Ryan Newman
CHRIS BUESCHER, No. 17 BuildSubmarines.com Ford Mustang –
NO SWORD THIS YEAR, BUT YOU ARE GOING TO THE ROUND OF 12.
“Yeah, it was a great day for us. Our BuildSubmarines.com Ford Mustang was really fast. We’re not disappointed in the car at all. Obviously, we want to win and coming off the win last time being close and seeing it was good, but we had a really good race car. We needed a touch more to go fight for that win, but I’m really proud of this group. We’re on to the next round of playoffs. We’ve got some more really great tracks coming for us. We’ve got the first Ford out here tonight, so it was definitely a strong night for us. We just want a little bit more.
YOUR HOME TRACK NEXT WEEK AT TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY.
“It will be very busy. It is cool to make it past the first round. For my first playoff appearance this was the end or wherever the cutoff was it was the end of our playoff experience, so I’m proud to be moving on and into the next one. I can’t wait to get to my home track.”
BRAD KESELOWSKI, No. 6 Castrol Edge Ford Mustang –
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT BOTH RFK MUSTANGS ADVANCING TO THE NEXT ROUND?
“It’s good to move into the next round. We certainly are gonna have our work cut out for us, but that’s what this thing is all about. It was a good day for us for both cars. It was a good Round of 16 for us and let the Round of 12 begin.”
WHAT TRACK ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO THE NEXT ROUND?
“The one right in front of me. That’s Texas and you’ve just got to take the one at a time.”
BOTH TEAMS STILL HAVE SOME GREAT MOMENTUM AS YOU GO INTO THE NEXT ROUND.
“It’s a good feeling for sure. Chris has done a great job. The 17 car looks good. The 6 car looks good. We’ve got a real good shot of making it through the next round, but we’ve got to be careful to keep our head down and stay focused.”
KEVIN HARVICK, No. 4 GEARWRENCH Ford Mustang –
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?
“We’ve been like that all year. We’ve been hit or miss and tonight we just missed by a mile.”
LAST RACE AT BRISTOL.
“I’ve had some good days and bad days, but that’s definitely the worst one I’ve had with fenders on it.”
THOUGHTS ON NOT MAKING THE NEXT ROUND?
“I didn’t really have many expectations with how up and down the year has been. It is what it is and that’s probably about what we deserved.”
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THIS FIRST ROUND?
“We were slow.”
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO FROM HERE ON OUT?
“I’m probably looking forward to Phoenix. I think that’s definitely been our best racetrack. We haven’t been great on the mile-and-a-halves and tonight we were just way off.”
WHAT WERE YOU MISSING THIS ROUND?
“We could have won Darlington. We were off at Kansas and terrible here.”
MICHAEL MCDOWELL, No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford Mustang –
“It’s disappointing not to advance, for sure, but we dug ourselves such a big hole those first two races that we were in a must-win situation. We weren’t good enough to do that tonight, but I’m still really proud of the speed that we brought and the effort that we brought. We still needed a little bit more to contend for that win, but we gave ourselves a fighting chance. Unfortunately, at the end there wasn’t enough action. Normally at Bristol you get a late-race caution and get the front row beating and banging and maybe you get an opportunity, but that just never happened. We’re learning. It’s a learning experience for us. This is only the second time we’ve been in the playoffs. We’ve had a good season. We’ve showed good speed and we’ll learn from the mistakes that we made here in this first round and we’ll keep working hard the rest of the season to try to treat it like we are in and we’re fighting for a championship because hopefully next year we will be. So, it’s a learning experience for us. It’s not what we wanted, but I’m still proud of the effort.”
THE FIRST TIME YOU MADE THE PLAYOFFS YOU WERE JUST HAPPY TO BE THERE. THIS TIME WAS A DIFFERENT FEELING, RIGHT?
“The performance was there. I don’t want to downplay that, but we just didn’t execute well and we had some issues. We qualified in the second round of all three races, which you need to do if you want to advance, so we got that part down. At Darlington, we got into that crash at the end and that’s 10-15 spots. That’s all you need to make it, so a lot of things could have gone differently that would have put us in a position to advance, but it just didn’t work out. It wasn’t meant to be. We’ll learn from it and get better for the next time.”
RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 Advance Auto Parts Ford Mustang –
YOU SURVIVED AND ADVANCED TO THE NEXT ROUND.
“That’s what we did. It was not a pretty night by any means, but we ran all the laps and did what we needed to do. You’d like to have a little bit more speed and just be competitive and we weren’t tonight, but we get to go on to the next round and reset and start off at Texas to see what we’ve got.”
JOEY LOGANO, No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Mustang –
WHAT WAS THIS TEAM MISSING THIS YEAR?
“Speed. Just a lot of things. We’re not out yet. As much as it feels like I’m out at the moment there’s still a long ways to go in this race and things can happen to the competitors that are out there. You don’t want to wish misfortune on people for your own good, but it’s kind of our only hope at the moment. It’s what happens. You don’t go fast enough, you’re in the back and they wreck in front of you at Bristol on a restart and you’re going so fast that you can’t whoa up or turn or do anything and you get kind of pile drove into the wreck. It’s our own fault.”
HAS IT FELT LIKE AN UPHILL BATTLE ALL YEAR?
“Yeah. I haven’t really felt like we’ve made any big gains that we need to and unfortunately it seems like it’s at every track. Typically you may say, ‘Oh, we’re off on a mile-and-a-half, but our short tracks are OK or your road courses are OK.’ It just seems like we’re off everywhere right now, so we’ll see what happens here the rest of the race and if we get knocked out it gives us a few races to swing big and try to figure it out for next year. That’s about where we’re at, so we’ll wait anxiously. I keep watching the TV behind you. I’m pretty distracted at the moment, but it is what it is. We just move forward from here.”
HOW FRUSTRATING IS THIS?
“Obviously, it’s a real bummer. You get out of the race like that and you’re behind the wall and you’re in denial for a minute. You don’t want to believe that it happened and you want to think that it’s fixable, but the car was tore up too bad.”
HOW UNCHARACTERISTIC IS IT FOR YOU TO HAVE TO LEARN HOW TO RACE FOR 15TH?
“It takes something different out of a driver to drive a car in 15th and tonight we weren’t even that. It’s a little uncharacteristic for us right now and we just have to go to work and keep our heads down and stay faithful in each other, keep trusting each other that we can figure it out. It’s still the same team that won the championship last year. We’re a little lost at the moment, but we’ll keep fighting and try to figure some things out.”
HOW DISAPPOINTING HAVE THESE FIRST 29 RACES BEEN FOR YOUR TEAM?
“Like I said, I’m not saying it’s over yet, but at the moment obviously not as good as we needed to be – inconsistent, not fast enough, not scoring stage points. When you don’t score stage points that just says you’re not fast enough. We’ve been able to manufacture finishes like we did last year. Paul does a great job of giving me a chance to finish good. If this was a few years ago and there wasn’t stage racing, we’d be sitting in a lot better shape because we would figure out a way to close races, but we don’t score the points during the race because we’re just not fast enough.”
HOW MUCH DID YOU COME INTO THIS RACE THINKING YOU HAVE TO BE CAREFUL BUT BE AGGRESSIVE?
“I knew my situation and what I needed to do, but it’s Bristol and there’s not really many things you do differently depending on your scenario. There’s nothing I could have done there in that wreck. It’s just a product of being back there and the way we raced or anything like that didn’t affect that. The only thing that affected that is we were back there, so that’s it.”
DID YOU JUST GET HIT FROM BEHIND AS EVERYBODY SLOWED UP?
“Yeah, I saw the smoke. I saw the 7 spinning. Coleman was saying, ‘He’s coming up. He’s coming up.’ As I was on the brakes to try to pull onto the bottom. I think it was Newman behind me, but I think someone hit him behind him and it was just kind of a chain reaction into it. Once I got hit I was like, ‘Shoot, I’ve got to go up now’ because I couldn’t make the bottom, so I committed to that and the hole closed up.”
NASCAR XFINITY Series (September 15 -- Bristol)
- Cole Custer kicked off the Xfinity Series playoffs with a 4th-place run to lead Ford.
- Custer captured the pole and won the first stage as he led every lap.
- Overall, Custer led the first 108 circuits of the event and 109 overall.
- Ryan Sieg (6th) and Riley Herbst (8th) also had top-10 finishes.
- After one race in the Round of 12, Custer sits 3rd in the standings (+39 above the cut line).
- The Xfinity Series playoffs continue on Saturday, Sept. 23 at Texas Motor Speedway, 3:30 p.m. ET (USA, PRN, SiriusXM, NBC Sports Live Stream).
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (September 14 -- Bristol)
- Ben Rhodes topped Ford in the first race of the Round of 8 with a 7th-place finish.
- Zane Smith led 43 laps and finished 5th and 2nd in the first two stages, but a penalty for pitting outside his box with 81 laps to go resulted in a 24th-place result.
- Ty Majeski was 3rd in Stage 1, but contact at the end of Stage 2 caused a flat tire that sent him into the wall and contributed to a 19th-place finish.
- Conner Jones (15th), Matt Crafton (16th) and Hailie Deegan (17th) finished in the top 20.
- Playoff contenders Smith (-14), Rhodes (-19) and Majeski (-22) are all below the cut line with 2 races remaining in the round.
- The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Playoffs will take a one-week break before returning to Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday, Sept. 30 at 1 p.m. ET (FS1, MRN, Sirius XM).