Chris Buescher Gets His First NASCAR Cup Win of the Year at Richmond

Buescher locks himself into the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with the win.

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Richmond Raceway, Richmond, VA — July 30, 2023

The Cook Out 400 from Richmond Raceway is the final short track race in the NASCAR Cup Series regular season. And it could not have come at a better time. After the controversial and anger-filled event at Pocono last week. There is no better place to settle arguments than short-track beating and banging racing

Only five races remain in the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series regular season (Richmond, Michigan, Indianapolis, Watkins Glen, and Daytona) to decide who will compete in the 16-driver Playoff field, and for the second time this year, the NASCAR Cup Series will head to Richmond Raceway for some Sunday afternoon side-by-side short track action.

Just outside the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs cutoff is Kaulig Racing’s AJ Allmendinger in the 17th position, -17 points back from McDowell in the final Playoff transfer spot on points. Both McDowell and Allmendinger are looking to make the Playoffs for the second time in their respective careers. McDowell made his postseason debut in 2021, and Allmendinger last made the Playoffs in 2014.

Also chasing McDowell and within striking distance are Trackhouse Racing’s Daniel Suárez and Joe Gibbs Racing’s rookie Ty Gibbs. Suarez is ranked 18th, -23 points behind McDowell, and Gibbs is ranked 19th, -28 points back. Of the five drivers from 15th to 19th in the Playoff outlook standings, Suárez (16.1) has the best average finish at Richmond Raceway, followed by Allmendinger (22.1), Gibbs (22.5), Wallace (23.6) and McDowell (30.4).

Richmond Raceway History

A little history about Richmond Raceway. … It was originally known as the Atlantic Rural Exposition Fairgrounds. Richmond Raceway held its first race in 1946 as a half-mile dirt track. The first NASCAR Cup Series race at Richmond Raceway was held on April 19, 1953, and was won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Lee Petty with an average speed of 45.535 mph.

The first 24 NASCAR Cup Series races held at Richmond Raceway were run on a dirt surface (1953-1968). NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson won the final Richmond race on dirt, driving a Holman-Moody Racing 1968 Ford to Victory Lane.

The track surface was changed from dirt to asphalt between Cup Series races in 1968, with NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty winning the first NASCAR Cup Series race on the paved Richmond surface on September 8, 1968. The track was then rebuilt as the three-quarters-mile D-shaped oval we know today in 1988. In total, Richmond Raceway has hosted the NASCAR Cup Series 133 times, producing 57 different pole winners and 53 different race winners.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty leads the NASCAR Cup Series in wins at Richmond Raceway with 13 victories (spring 1961, 1967 sweep, fall 1968, fall 1970, 1971 sweep, 1972 sweep, 1973 sweep, fall 1974, and spring 1975). Petty’s 13 Richmond wins are the third-most victories by a single driver at a single track in NASCAR Cup Series history, behind his 15 wins at Martinsville and 15 wins at North Wilkesboro.

This weekend, eight of the 53 NASCAR Cup Series Richmond Raceway winners are active, led by Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch with six victories (spring 2009, spring 2010, spring 2011, spring 2012, 2018 sweep).

Active Race Winners (8) Wins Season
Kyle Busch 6 2018 sweep, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009
Denny Hamlin 4 2022, 2016, 2010, 2009
Kevin Harvick 4 2022, 2013, 2011, 2006
Martin Truex Jr 3 2021, 2019 sweep
Kyle Larson 2 2023, 2017
Brad Keselowski 2 2020, 2014
Joey Logano 2 2017, 2014
Alex Bowman 1 2021

 

Richmond Has Produced Six Different Winners in the Last Six Races

Long shots and streaks of different winners are nothing new at the famous Richmond Raceway, and this weekend the 0.75-mile track is riding a streak of six different NASCAR Cup Series winners in the last six races – 2020 Brad Keselowski, 2021 Alex Bowman, 2021 Martin Truex Jr., 2022 Denny Hamlin, 2022 Kevin Harvick and 2023 Kyle Larson. So, who will continue the streak of different winners this weekend?

Kevin Harvick is the defending champion of today’s race. Kyle Larson won here in the spring race this year.

Hendrick Motorsports driver Alex Bowman, from Tucson, Arizona, is making his 275th NASCAR Cup Series career start this weekend at Richmond Raceway.

Today’s race is 300 miles or 400 laps around the .75 D-shaped oval. Stages are 70/160/170 laps. Tyler Reddick starts on the pole, and Kyle Busch lines up beside him in the front row. Denny Hamlin starts third, next to Elliott in row two. Kyle Larson starts 14th and will have some work to do to get to Hamlin’s bumper if he is planning some payback from last week.

Austin Dillon, who threw his helmet at Reddick after an on-track incident at Pocono, starts 17th. He may have to wait until Reddick comes around to lap him before he can get a shot at his payback opportunity.

Stage One

Tyler Reddick(45) raced away from the pack into turn one. Behind the leader, three-wide racing developed quickly as drivers jockeyed for positions they could pick up before settling into single-file and two-wide racing for individual spots on the track.

Fuel will be a non-factor today as tire wear becomes the issue that will determine pitstop timing. Tire falloff at Richmond is significant. After just 15 laps in, lap times had dropped off a full second. The winner may not be the fastest driver, but the one that takes care of his tires for 300 miles.

Denny Hamlin(11) moved into second place and began to cut the interval to Reddick. Kyle Busch(8), Bubba Wallace(23), and Chase Elliott(9) filled out the top five spots.

It took just 37 laps for the leaders to catch the rear of the field and begin putting cars a lap down.

AJ Allmendinger raced at Road America yesterday in the Xfinity series. He flew to Richmond for today’s race but had to start at the rear of the field as another driver qualified the car on Saturday. He was the big mover 50 laps into the race, having picked up ten spots early on.

Reddick led all 70 laps of Stage One to gain the maximum stage points and the single playoff point awarded for the Stage win. Kyle Busch was the biggest loser in the Stage, dropping 11 positions in the first 70 laps.

Stage One Results

POS CAR DRIVER POINTS
1 45 Tyler Reddick 10
2 23 Bubba Wallace 9
3 11 Denny Hamlin 8
4 9 Chase Elliott 7
5 4 Kevin Harvick* 6
6 41 Ryan Preece* 5
7 24 William Byron 4
8 10 Aric Almirola* 3
9 6 Brad Keselowski* 2
10 54 Ty Gibbs 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Stage Two

All the cars made a pitstop during the Stage break caution. The top five exited in the same order as they came to the pit road.

Teams will have to determine their pit strategy for the longer Stage Two distance of 160 laps. A one-stop Stage will be a challenge for the driver to deal with extremely worn tires over 80 laps. A two-stop Stage could cost a driver track position as you lose one to two laps in the pits when changing tires.

Starting on the outside of the front row next to Reddick, Bubba Wallace(23) edged ahead of the former leader to take over the top spot. He continued to pull away from Reddick as the laps approached the point where the green flag stops for the two-stop drivers.

Bubba Wallace(23) takes the lead away from Tyler Reddick at the beginning of Stage Two / NASCAR Photo

The leaders began hitting pit road on lap 53. Michael McDowell(34) and Martin Truex Jr.(19) were two of the drivers to opt for the single-stop strategy, and they stayed on the track looking to pit around lap 80.

With fresher tires Wallace, Reddick, and Brad Keselowski(6) passed the long-run duo quickly. When McDowell and Truex pitted at mid Stage, they returned to the track in the 28th and 29th positions. Both were two laps down but were running a full second per lap faster than the leaders.

Three-stop strategy drivers began pit stops just past the 100-lap mark of Stage Two. The leader, Wallace, had trouble changing the right front tire and lost valuable time during his stop.

When stops were completed, Truex and McDowell returned to the top of the leaderboard. However, it only took Brad Keselowski eight laps to catch the pair and move past into the lead.

Pit stops shuffled the front of the pack. Behind Keselowski, Reddick, Chris Buescher(17), Wallace, and Hamlin were the top five with 35 laps to go in the Stage.

A great Stage Two for RFK racing as teammates Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher run one-two. It was also a good run for Truex as his one-stop strategy advanced him from 28th at the end of Stage One to a top-ten finish in the second Stage. Treux was eighth across the finish line under the green and white checkered flag.

In comparison, Michael McDowell, using the same strategy, went a lap down by the end of the Stage.

Results of Stage Two

POS CAR DRIVER POINTS
1 6 Brad Keselowski* 10
2 17 Chris Buescher* 9
3 45 Tyler Reddick 8
4 23 Bubba Wallace 7
5 11 Denny Hamlin 6
6 8 Kyle Busch 5
7 41 Ryan Preece* 4
8 19 Martin Truex Jr. 3
9 54 Ty Gibbs 2
10 22 Joey Logano* 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

The Final Stage

Keselowski and Busecher led the field back to the green flag on the restart. They pulled away as cars went three wide behind them. When the battle for positions settled out, Reddick, Hamlin, and Wallace followed the leaders at the front of the field.

Green flag pit stops began with 117 laps to go when Logano pitted. The leaders quickly followed suit. All eyes focused on Truex. Would his team change strategy after getting back into the top 10 or go with the plan that got them there?

Keselowski lost some time when he had trouble entering his pit stall and slid in nose first. His crew was able to legally complete the stop as he had all but the right rear tire completely in the stall in accordance with NASCAR rules.

Truex stayed out and held a ten-second lead over Buescher when all tops were complete. Keselowski’s mistake cost him six positions once he was back on track.

With 95 laps to go, Buescher passed Truex for the lead. Truex pitted with 88 laps to go and dropped to 19th position, two laps down. He was able to pass the leader with fresh tires and get back within one lap of Buescher.

With 80 laps to go, Buescher led by four and a half seconds. Reddick, Ryan Preece(41), Hamlin, and Keselowski led the field. Only 16 cars were on the lead lap. Treux was one lap down and in a position to get the “lucky dog” free pass if there is a caution. The rest of the pack is at least two laps down.

On lap 330, Larson, with fresher tires, caught up to Hamlin and put a bumper to the #11 car. The message sent Hamlin up the track and allowed Larson to make the pass. Just to note, Larson was two laps down at the time.

With 64 laps to go, the leaders began making their final pit stops. Tyler Reddick failed to get all four tires inside of the pit commitment box and was penalized with a return trip to pit road for a drive-through at reduced speed.

Truex moved to the lead but could only hold it for five laps before Buescher was back out front. Truex does have an extra set of tires in his pit. If there is a late caution, he can put them on and see if they help him pass the lead lap cars. However, there has not been a caution for cause all afternoon. Just Stage break yellow flags.

The Finish

With ten laps to go, Daniel Suarez spun in turn three, and the complexion of the race changed. Everyone on the lead lap will come to pit road for fresh tires.

Buescher, Hamlin, Busch, Preece, and Truex were the leaders off pit road. With the “choose rule” in place, it will be interesting to see how they line up for the restart.

The green flies with three laps to go. Buescher takes the low line, and Hamlin goes high. Buescher gets the jump and pulls away from Hamlin. Hamlin closes with two laps to go but overdrives into turn one and slides high, allowing Buescher to pull away for the uncontested win.

Chris Buescher wins at Richmond / NASCAR Photo

Now locked into the playoffs, Buescher can relax for the next four races. Stage wins, and top finishes will improve his odds heading into the postseason.

 

Playoff Standings

Another potential playoff spot for drivers trying to qualify on points went away with Chris Buescher’s win. But the battle at the cut line is heating up, with just 42 points separating the 16th and final playoff position held by Michael McDowell from Alex Bowman in the 21st spot.

With decent finishes over the past few weeks, Bubba Wallace has increased his margin over the cut line to 54 points. Ty Gibbs slid into the first-man-out position, just 18 points behind McDowell.

RK DRIVER POINTS STATUS
1 William Byron 701 In Win(4)
2 Martin Truex Jr. 744 In Win(3)
3 Kyle Busch 648 In Win(3)
4 Denny Hamlin 705 In Win(2)
5 Kyle Larson 619 In Win(2)
6 Christopher Bell 653 In Win
7 Ross Chastain 626 In Win
8 Ryan Blaney* 614 In Win
9 Joey Logano* 609 In Win
10 Tyler Reddick 602 In Win
11 Chris Buescher* 598 In Win
12 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 514 In Win
13 Kevin Harvick* 634 +182
14 Brad Keselowski* 603 +151
15 Bubba Wallace 506 +54
16 Michael McDowell* 470 +18
NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Cut Line
17 Ty Gibbs 452 -18
18 AJ Allmendinger 448 -22
19 Daniel Suarez 436 -34
20 Chase Elliott 430 -40
21 Alex Bowman 428 -42
22 Austin Cindric* 406 -64
23 Justin Haley 400 -70
24 Aric Almirola* 384 -86
25 Ryan Preece* 382 -88

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Results of the Cook Out 400 from Richmond Raceway

POS CAR DRIVER BEHIND LAPS
1 17 Chris Buescher 400
2 11 Denny Hamlin 0.549 400
3 8 Kyle Busch 0.817 400
4 22 Joey Logano 1.007 400
5 41 Ryan Preece 1.427 400
6 6 Brad Keselowski 1.599 400
7 19 Martin Truex Jr. 1.749 400
8 10 Aric Almirola 1.875 400
9 3 Austin Dillon 2.104 400
10 4 Kevin Harvick 2.291 400
11 14 Chase Briscoe 2.303 400
12 23 Bubba Wallace 2.486 400
13 9 Chase Elliott 2.743 400
14 12 Ryan Blaney 2.761 400
15 54 Ty Gibbs 6.094 400
16 45 Tyler Reddick 6.436 400
17 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 7.445 400
18 48 Alex Bowman 7.621 400
19 5 Kyle Larson 7.750 400
20 20 Christopher Bell -1 399
21 24 William Byron -1 399
22 34 Michael McDowell -1 399
23 43 Erik Jones -1 399
24 1 Ross Chastain -1 399
25 38 Todd Gilliland -1 399
26 2 Austin Cindric -1 399
27 16 AJ Allmendinger -1 399
28 42 Noah Gragson -2 398
29 51 Ryan Newman -2 398
30 31 Justin Haley -2 398
31 21 Harrison Burton -3 397
32 7 Corey LaJoie -3 397
33 99 Daniel Suarez -4 396
34 77 Ty Dillon -4 396
35 15 JJ Yeley -4 396
36 78 BJ McLeod -5 395