Chris Buescher fends off Martin Truex Jr., wins second in a row at FireKeepers Casino 400
FiredUp Network Sports Writer
Monday, August 7, 2023
The last two years have been massive for Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing.
Ever since Matt Kenseth left the team at the end of 2012, it has been on a downward spiral in every imaginable way.
Winless since 2017, Chris Buescher broke through for the team at Bristol last year, in their first season under Brad Keselowski’s ownership.Last weekend at Richmond, Buescher scored the team’s first win of the season.
This weekend at Michigan, he did it again.
Taking the lead on strategy, Buescher fended off countless attacks from the much-faster Martin Truex Jr. for the final 20 laps to secure his second win in a row in the FireKeepers Casino 400.
Not since 2009 had the team formerly known as Roush Fenway Racing won two races in succession, when Kenseth won the Daytona 500, and then won again the following weekend at California.
Similarly, not since Buescher was racing for Jack Roush in the Xfinity Series, formerly known as the Nationwide Series, had he won two races in a single season, let alone two in a row.
With team-owner Keselowski finishing fourth at Michigan to also make it two double-top tens in a row, there could not be more of a perfect time for an up and coming team like RFK to get hot. There are now just three races before the NASCAR Playoffs.
Finishing second was Truex Jr., who dominated the race even despite several setbacks with alternating strategies. The No.19 even managed to sweep the stages, and win Stage 2 after pitting with under ten to go.
The 2017 champion, who just signed a new extension for 2024 with Joe Gibbs Racing, was able to make passes on the very bottom of the track where no one else could, making him the favourite to win. That was until he caught the 17 of Buescher.
Truex Jr. got alongside him going into Turn 1, before getting loose on Buescher’s inside door and slipping out of the groove. He would catch back up, but time ran out.
Finishing third was Denny Hamlin, who recovered from a stall on pit road to score another top 5 result. Behind Keselowski in fourth was Kyle Larson in fifth - the lone Hendrick Motorsports finisher - ahead of the Trackhouse duo of Daniel Suarez and Ross Chastain.
Kevin Harvick finished eighth in his final race at Michigan, followed by Ryan Blaney in ninth, and surprisingly, Erik Jones in tenth for Legacy Motor Club.
On a tough weekend for Jimmie Johnson’s team with Noah Gragson being suspended for inappropriate social media behaviour, and his replacement Josh Berry crashing out early, Jones’ top ten was much-needed for the organisation.
Further down the order it was a horrible day for Hendrick Motorsports, who had three of its four cars DNF.
Chase Elliott blew a right rear in turn 1 and hit the wall, while William Byron smacked the wall on the exit of Turn 4 in a self-induced error. Alex Bowman, who much like Elliott is below the playoff cut line, was spun on the backstretch on a restart and fell out of the race.
The two drivers now sit over 50 points outside the playoff grid, and will soon be entering ‘must-win’ situations.
Tyler Reddick also had another day to forget, contending for the win before his pit crew didn’t tighten his right rear tire properly on his last stop, causing a spin and another trip down pit road. The 23XI Racing No.45 finished in 30th.
Next weekend, NASCAR merges with IndyCar for a terrific double-header weekend with two of the country’s largest Motorsports series at the Indianapolis road course.
With drivers like Chicago winner Shane Van Gisbergen and former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi looking to play spoiler again as road course ringers, and A.J Allmendinger looking to clinch a playoff spot on a track suited to his style, it should be a great weekend ahead!