Buescher Shoved to Daytona Victory
(DAYTONA BEACH, FL – AUG 26, 2023 – RIS) Chris Buescher scored his third race of 2023, his first NASCAR Cup series superspeedway win and fifth career victory with a push from team co-owner Brad Keselowski, leading only the final two laps of the Coke Zero Sugar 400 in an overtime finish of a race slowed by only a pair of inciden cautions. One of those cautions ended the second stage as well, and included a red flag for a multi-car crash involving almost half the field as they approached the stage-ending flag. The second incident was the spectacular barrel-roll by Ryan Preece in the grass on the back straight.
Ryan Briscoe and Aric Almirola pushed out to the lead on the inside row, with Bubba Wallace and Riley Herbst leading the outside line. Then, before five laps, Briscoe and Almirola were run, the inside lane pushed out to relegate the outside lane to tenth or lower. Ryan Preece reported to his team that the No. 41 Ford had no power steering on the parade laps and started fading back. During a pit stop, the team managed to diagnose and repair the problem.
The outer lane finally prevailed on lap 23 as Denny Hamlin got pushed into the lead, with Martin Truex, Christopher Bell, Ty Gibbs and Bubba Wallace all in the top five. About the same time, Chase Elliott had radio problems and lost a channel of communications.
Approaching the end of the first stage, Truex dropped to the inside lane to challenge for the lead with a push from Christopher Bell but Hamlin blocked and got hung in the middle lane, allowing Truex to take the stage win, followed by Bell, Harvick, Gibbs and Logano.
Logano led Truex to the restart and Kyle Busch had to drop to the rear of the longer line after a pit road penalty. Logano and Harvick took the inside line to the lead with Daniel Suarez in third behind them with a three-wide formation from about the seventh row back while Busch used traffic savvy to advance to the top ten. Chase Elliott used the outside of three lanes to take the lead with a push from AJ Allmendinger before ‘Dinger moved around and into the lead with Kyle Busch providing the draft as Elliott and Stenhouse raced side-by-side for third place.
Ross Chastain got the lead, followed by Logano, with Truex, Bell and Preece the top five as an extended session of three-wide racing settled back to two-wide drafting. The outer lane pulled ahead of the lower lane, with the top nine or ten cars in the outer lane and the inside lane headed by Brad Keselowski.
Some teams started pitting for fuel and tires with about twelve laps left in the second stage, cycling Harrison Burton and Brad Keselowski into the lead with Daniel Suarez dodging to the inside line for the lead. Keselowski pushed Kyle Busch to the lead with six laps left in stage two. Three-wide racing in the pack allowed the leaders in the inside line to break away from the main group as a push from Ryan Blaney shoed Ty Gibbs into the lead then approaching the end of the stage on lap 94, about half the field got involved in a major crash off the fourth turn started when Gibbs got loose from a push by Christopher Bell, sending him into the outside wall and triggering a crash that involved nearly half the field. The red flag flew for the cleanup and push trucks were allowed to start moving cars with flat tires just before the yellow came out, allowing teams to begin working on the cars. The No. 2, 3, 4, 5, 11, 12, 20, 21, 36, 45, 47, and No. 54 cars were all involved to some extent, though several were able to continue after getting new tires or other repairs made. Chase Elliott told his crew that the rear view camera on the No. 9 car was misaligned and on a subsequent pit stop, the team taped over the display in the car, leading him to joke about the pretty tape job they did.
Martin Truex Jr clinched the regular season championship on points with the end of the stage. When the race went green again, Chase Briscoe and Kyle Busch led the inside and outside lanes, with a strong push from Almirola shoving Briscoe into an almost clear lead.
After losing power steering on the pace lap starting the race and his crew making repairs, Ryan Preece drove back through the field and was running in third place with 30 laps remaining in the race. The pack’s single-file formation broke into two lines again with Chandler Smith in front of the inside lane until the outside leaders moved down preparing to pit. Most of the stops were for fuel only, with Kyle Busch heading the pack who stopped, followed by Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez.
The other cars all pitted as a group for fuel only, with Elliott’s crew only connecting the fuel can for two seconds.
Harvick, Elliott, Almirola, Buescher and Keselowski were the top five after the pit stop cycle, with the second group catching up to the first pack with nine laps left. Kyle Larson, a couple of laps down, gave his fellow Hendrick driver a push into second place. Elliott must win to get into the playoffs after missing several races with a snowboarding accident and a one-week penalty, but he slipped back to fourth at the front of the inside line with four laps to race as Ryan Preece and Chase Briscoe got together at the entrance to the ‘Bus Stop’ chicane used on the road course sending Preece into a series of violent barrel rolls. The car landed on its tires and Preece climbed out to be taken to the care center for further checks before being taken to a local hospital for further evaluation.
Kevin Harvick, Chris Buescher, Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott and Aric Almirola led the field to the choose for an overtime restart. Harvick went inside with Buescher outside and a push from Keselowski shoved Buescher into the lead with Elliott pushing Harvick on the inside as Buescher and Keselowski led the pack to the checkered flag for the first one-two finish for Roush-Fenway racing in years and Buescher’s first superspeedway victory. His twelfth-place finish locked Bubba Wallace into a playoffs berth heading to Darlington next weekend for the Southern 500.
“It’s so awesome,” Buescher exulted. “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.
“We certainly have the momentum on our side right now. Shoot, for playoff points that’s a huge step in the right direction,” the victor added. “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.
“In that sense it’s amazing here. To get one of these things. Superspeedway racing is slowly growing on me,” admitted Buescher. “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.”
“It’s a bummer, for sure,” said Elliott after not making the playoffs. “I feel like we had an OK chance there, but Brad (Keselowski) and the No. 17 (Chris Buescher) just worked so well together there and they were able to stay locked-on. They were so locked-on there.. they just had a strangle-hold on the top lane. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get to Kevin (Harvick) and stay there like that, and just make the bottom lane work. I kind of bottled it up there and just couldn’t get enough momentum going forward.
“But it was a valiant effort and I appreciate the effort from everybody – from the No. 9 team, Team Chevy, Hendrick Motorsports. I thought we all worked really well together tonight. Obviously, we came up a little short, but nonetheless – I hate the way the season has gone, but proud to get the car into the owner’s championship. It’s a big deal to get in on the owner’s side, so hopefully we’ll try and go make some noise on that front, and just keep progressing and pushing to be better for next year. We’ll be better through all of this down the road.”
Martin Truex admitted that the regular season “trophy is cool but we’re really focused on the championship,” after winning the regular season point standings. We got to put together ten great races like we did in 2017.”
Unofficial Results: Coke Zero Sugar 400, August 26, 2023 - Daytona International Speedway
Fin, Str, Driver, Car, Laps, St1, St2, Tms Led, Laps Led, Playoff Pts, Pts, Status
1) 11, Chris Buescher, No. 17, Fifth Third Bank Ford, 163, , , 1, 2, 5, 40, Running
2) 12, Brad Keselowski, No. 6 King's Hawaiian Ford, 163, , 1, 1, 6, 1, 45, Running
3) 2, Aric Almirola, No. 10 Smithfield Ford, 163, , , 1, 3, , 34, Running
4) 23, Chase Elliott, No. 9 LLumar Chevrolet, 163, , 7, 1, 2, , 37, Running
5) 14, Joey Logano, No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, 163, 5, 10, 1, 9, , 39, Running
6) 31, Alex Bowman, No. 48 Ally Arena Chevrolet, 163, , 4, , , , 38, Running
7) 18, Kyle Busch, No. 8 Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen Chevrolet, 163, , 2, 1, 5, , 39, Running
8) 27, William Byron, No. 24 RaptorTough.com Chevrolet, 163, , 5, 1, 1, , 35, Running
9) 10, Kevin Harvick, No. 4 GEARWRENCH Ford, 163, 3, , 1, 14, , 36, Running
10) 37, Corey LaJoie, No. 7 NEGU Chevrolet, 163, , , , , , 27, Running
11) 30, Ty Dillon, No. 77 Gainbridge Chevrolet, 163, , , , , , 26, Running
12) 4, Bubba Wallace, No. 23 Columbia Sportswear Company Toyota, 163, 6, , , , , 30, Running
13) 39, Michael McDowell, No. 34 Fr8Auctions Ford, 163, , , , , , 24, Running
14) 26, * Austin Hill(i), No. 62 United Rentals/Beard Oil Chevrolet, 163, , , , , , 0, Running
15) 36, * Chandler Smith(i), No. 13 Quick Tie Products Inc. Chevrolet, 163, , , , , , 0, Running
16) 15, Christopher Bell, No. 20 Yahoo! Toyota, 163, 2, , , , , 30, Running
17) 25, Ross Chastain, No. 1 Worldwide Express Chevrolet, 163, , 9, 2, 19, , 22, Running
18) 24, Erik Jones, No. 43 Allegiant Chevrolet, 163, , , , , , 19, Running
19) 33, JJ Yeley(i), No. 51 Biohaven/Jacob Co. Ford, 163, , , , , , 0, Running
20) 22, Daniel Suarez, No. 99 Freeway.com Chevrolet, 163, 10, 3, 1, 1, , 26, Running
21) 28, Justin Haley, No. 31 Celsius Chevrolet, 163, , , , , , 16, Running
22) 29, Josh Berry(i), No. 42 Sunseeker Resort Chevrolet, 163, , , , , , 0, Running
23) 38, BJ McLeod, No. 78 B'laster Chevrolet, 163, , , , , , 14, Running
24) 13, Martin Truex Jr., No. 19 Bass Pros Shops/Ducks Unlimited Toyota, 163, 1, , 2, 4, 1, 23, Running
25) 20, Tyler Reddick, No. 45 The Beast Unleashed Toyota, 163, , 6, , , , 17, Running
26) 19, Denny Hamlin, No. 11 FedEx Cares Toyota, 162, 8, , 1, 12, , 14, Running
27) 7, Kyle Larson, No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet, 161, , , , , , 10, Running
28) 3, Harrison Burton, No. 21 DEX Imaging Ford, 160, , , 2, 5, , 9, Running
29) 17, AJ Allmendinger, No. 16 Action Industries Chevrolet, 160, , , 3, 8, , 8, Running
30) 1, Chase Briscoe, No. 14 Magical Vacation Planner Ford, 156, 9, , 2, 67, , 9, Accident
31) 9, Ryan Preece, No. 41 RaceChoice.com Ford, 155, , , , , , 6, Accident
32) 35, Todd Gilliland, No. 38 Boot Barn Ford, 131, , , , , , 5, Overheating
33) 21, Austin Dillon, No. 3 BREZTRI Chevrolet, 102, , 8, , , , 7, Accident
34) 32, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 47 Boost by Kroger/Entenmann's Chevrolet, 96, , , 1, 1, , 3, Accident
35) 5, Ty Gibbs #, No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota, 94, 4, , , , , 9, Accident
36) 8, Ryan Blaney, No. 12 Advance Auto Parts Ford, 94, , , 1, 4, , 1, Accident
37) 16, Austin Cindric, No. 2 Menards/Cardell Cabinetry Ford, 94, 7, , , , , 5, Accident
38) 6, * Riley Herbst(i), No. 36 Monster Energy Zero Sugar Ford, 94, , , , , , 0, Accident
39) 34, Brennan Poole(i), No. 15 Finance Pro Plus Ford, 93, , , , , , 0, Accident
(i) Ineligible for driver points in this series, (#) Rookie
Distance: 163 Laps, 407.5 Miles
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 34 Mins, 22 Secs.
Average Speed: 158.389 MPH
Margin of Victory: .098 Seconds
Stage 1 Top 10: 19, 20, 4, 54, 22, 23, 2, 11, 14, 99
Stage 2 Top 10: 6, 8, 99, 48, 24, 45, 9, 3, 1, 22
Comments: Chris Buescher won the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at DAYTONA International Speedway, his fourth career NASCAR Cup Series Victory.
Prior to the start, the following car dropped to the rear of the field for the reason indicated: No. 41 (unapproved adjustments).
Cautions: 3 for 18 laps;
Laps: 37-40 (Stage 1 Conclusion );
96-104 (No. 2, 3, 4, 5, 11, 12, 20, 21, 36, 45, 47, 54 Incident in Turn 4 [Red: 9:28] [None]);
157-161 (No. 14 and 41 Incident on the Backstretch ).
Lead Changes: 22 among 17 drivers;
C. Briscoe 1-22;
D. Hamlin 23-34;
M. Truex Jr. 35-37;
J. Logano 38-46;
A. Allmendinger 47-49;
C. Elliott 50-51;
A. Allmendinger 52-54;
R. Chastain 55-57;
A. Allmendinger 58-59;
R. Chastain 60-75;
R. Blaney 76-79;
R. Stenhouse Jr. 80;
A. Almirola 81-83;
H. Burton 84-87;
D. Suarez 88;
H. Burton 89;
K. Busch 90-94;
B. Keselowski 95-100;
W. Byron 101;
M. Truex Jr. 102;
C. Briscoe 103-147;
K. Harvick 148-161;
C. Buescher 162-163.
Long-time RIS staffer, beginning in the mid-80s. Charlotte, NC area local contact.