Chris Buescher shines at Bristol as Playoff field undergoes chaos

BRISTOL, TENNESSEE - SEPTEMBER 17: Chris Buescher, driver of the #17 Fastenal Ford, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on September 17, 2022 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Chris Buescher proved to be a redeemer for Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing Saturday night. On a night that saw many suffer issues, including his boss Brad Keselowski who lost a tire while leading, Buescher used a two-tire stop and took the lead from the pits with 60 laps to go and won the Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway Saturday night.

“We’ve been really close and fighting hard to get here,” Buescher said. “We’ve had a great summer.  A little bad luck, but we didn’t have any of that tonight.  We had some good fortune and some good execution and a fast race car and got to park in Victory Lane.”

It Buescher’s second career win, his first coming in a rain shortened race at Pocono Raceway in 2016 with Front Row Motorsports, and the first for Roush Racing since Daytona in the summer of 2017. Buescher also becomes the 19th different driver to win in 2022 tying a record dating back to 2001.

Chase Elliott, William Byron, Christopher Bell and Kyle Larson rounded out the top five.

The key to the win came during a final round of pit stops with 65 laps to go. Buescher’s crew chief called for a two tire stop while the rest took four; Buescher took the lead from that point and kept it when the green came with 60 to go winning by .458 of a second.

Buescher, who led a race high 169 laps, said he wasn’t worried by the two-tire call.

“Not one bit,” he said. “It was up to me at that point. Just hold on and make it work. We had a really fast Fastenal Mustang. Just so proud of everybody. We knew we had a good race car after practice and didn’t quite get the job done in qualifying, but what a race car.”

With Bristol being the final round of 16 and four drivers facing elimination the race delivered all the chaos and drama that was to be expected.

The drama started early for Playoff contender Austin Cindric who lost a tire on lap 84 and eventually fell 7 laps down. He was followed by Ryan Blaney who lost a tire and hit the wall on lap 93 while running inside the top 10 and was spun out by polesitter Aric Almirola. Blaney’s troubles got worse when on the ensuing pit stop, he lost a tire leaving his pit stall and was forced to reverse down pit road on three wheels. He was eventually forced to go to the garage for repairs and finished 162 laps down in 30th.

Keselowski would hold the lead and win Stage 1 giving his new team a much-needed confidence boost, but on the pit stops he would lose six spots handing the lead to Buescher.

Playoff driver Denny Hamlin would suffer a flat tire and scrape the wall on lap 233 but was able to stay on the lead lap.

Christopher Bell would win Stage 2 and lead the second most laps on the night, 143, and be one of the few Toyotas not to suffer any sort of issues. The Toyotas Bubba Wallace, Ty Gibbs, and Martin Truex Jr. would all suffer power steering issues with Gibbs and Truex scored with DNFs.

In the end however, it was the Toyota of Kyle Busch who suffered the most. Only days after announcing his move to Richard Childress Racing next season, Busch came into Bristol above the cutoff line. He was running competitively much of the race and seem to be well on his way to either a race win or finish high enough to point his way into the next round. On lap 271 though it all came to an end when his engine blew. His race, and Playoff run ended in a pile of oil and water in the garage.

A multi-car crash on lap 278, started when Daniel Suarez got loose and spun into Ricky Stenhouse Jr., swept several drivers including Playoff drivers Austin Dillon, Tyler Reddick, and Alex Bowman. Dillon was done for the night and the Playoffs, while Reddick tried to continue. He fell 31 laps down and finished 25 and was also eliminated.

Kevin Harvick came into Bristol needing a win to advance and for much of the race Saturday it looked as though he might just do that.  But during pit stops in the race’s 11th and final caution brought out when Bell lost a tire and hit the wall, Harvick’s crew failed to fully secure his front wheel forcing him to back up and lose several spots on track. Despite a valiant effort Harvick could only rally to a 10th place finish and was the final driver eliminated.

“Just went from having a chance to lead the parade to being a part of the parade,” Harvick said. “Just difficult to pass. Parted it way too fast through the corners. Can’t race.”

Hamlin, Cole Custer, AJ Allmendinger, and Ross Chastain finished ahead of Harvick completing the top 10.

The win was the first since Keselowski became a co-owner of the team.

“I’m proud as hell,” Keselowski said.  “Everybody has some level of ego and I’m not gonna say I don’t have any ego, but it’s easy to get over ego when you see that.”

The first round of the 2022 Playoffs marked the first time under the elimination format that no Playoff driver won a race.

Elliott leads the reseeded standings as the Round of 12 begins. He’s followed by Joey Logano (who finished 27th Saturday), Chastain, Larson, Byron, Hamlin, Bell, Blaney, Chase Briscoe (14th Saturday), Bowman, Suarez(19th), and Cindric (20th).

The first race in the round will be next Sunday at Texas followed by Talladega and the Charlotte ROVAL.


Photos: NASCAR at Bristol Motor Speedway Saturday Sept. 17, 2022

NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Bass Pro Shops Night Race

Bristol Motor Speedway

Bristol, Tennessee

Saturday, September 17, 2022

  1. (20)  Chris Buescher, Ford, 500.
  2. (23)  Chase Elliott (P), Chevrolet, 500.
  3. (16)  William Byron (P), Chevrolet, 500.
  4. (8)  Christopher Bell (P), Toyota, 500.
  5. (5)  Kyle Larson (P), Chevrolet, 500.
  6. (12)  Ross Chastain (P), Chevrolet, 500.
  7. (13)  AJ Allmendinger(i), Chevrolet, 500.
  8. (11)  Cole Custer, Ford, 500.
  9. (4)  Denny Hamlin (P), Toyota, 500.
  10. (7)  Kevin Harvick (P), Ford, 500.
  11. (18)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 500.
  12. (19)  Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 500.
  13. (10)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 499.
  14. (2)  Chase Briscoe (P), Ford, 498.
  15. (31)  Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 497.
  16. (27)  Harrison Burton #, Ford, 497.
  17. (32)  Cody Ware, Ford, 497.
  18. (30)  Todd Gilliland #, Ford, 496.
  19. (29)  Daniel Suarez (P), Chevrolet, 494.
  20. (9)  Austin Cindric # (P), Ford, 493.
  21. (24)  Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 492.
  22. (35)  Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 492.
  23. (36)  JJ Yeley(i), Ford, 491.
  24. (33)  BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 491.
  25. (17)  Tyler Reddick (P), Chevrolet, 469.
  26. (34)  Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, Steering, 457.
  27. (15)  Joey Logano (P), Ford, Suspension, 437.
  28. (1)  Aric Almirola, Ford, Steering, 418.
  29. (14)  Bubba Wallace (P), Toyota, 408.
  30. (6)  Ryan Blaney (P), Ford, 338.
  31. (28)  Austin Dillon (P), Chevrolet, DVP, 279.
  32. (3)  Alex Bowman (P), Chevrolet, Accident, 277.
  33. (26)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, Accident, 276.
  34. (21)  Kyle Busch (P), Toyota, Engine, 269.
  35. (25)  Ty Gibbs(i), Toyota, Steering, 265.
  36. (22)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, Steering, 198.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  88.286 mph.

Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 1 Mins, 7 Secs. Margin of Victory:  0.458 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  11 for 80 laps.

Lead Changes:  12 among 6 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   A. Almirola 1-35;R. Blaney (P) 36-44;A. Almirola 45;B. Keselowski 46-128;C. Bell (P) 129;C. Buescher 130-237;C. Bell (P) 238-356;K. Larson (P) 357-387;B. Keselowski 388-413;C. Bell (P) 414-435;K. Larson (P) 436-438;C. Bell (P) 439;C. Buescher 440-500.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Chris Buescher 2 times for 169 laps; Christopher Bell (P) 4 times for 143 laps; Brad Keselowski 2 times for 109 laps; Aric Almirola 2 times for 36 laps; Kyle Larson (P) 2 times for 34 laps; Ryan Blaney (P) 1 time for 9 laps.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 6,20,18,14,5,48,17,8,24,19

Stage #2 Top Ten: 20,1,14,9,18,48,24,3,5,4