Another Spectacular FireKeepers 400 at MIS, Ford Extends Winning Streak

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Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn, MI — August 6, 2023

When you think you are feeling invincible, life sometimes throws you a curve ball. I had to be reminded that the “S” in “sports journalist” does not transfer over onto the chest of my red shirt.

The Lasco Press had big plans for coverage of the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway this past weekend. However, our NASCAR expert, Steve Sweitzer, spent the weekend dealing with a health crisis instead of being at the speedway.

Fortunately, our media colleague Reid Spencer of the NASCAR Wire Service was on hand to file his always spot-on coverage of the event. We share below.

Chris Buescher Pulls of Back-to-Back Cup Series Wins with Victory at MIS

After the completion of the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway, we can hold the following truths to be self-evident:

  • Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing is officially “back.”
  • Chris Buescher is rapidly gaining elite status as a driver.
  • Ford maintained its dominance in the Irish Hills.
  • Chase Elliott will have to win one of the next three races to make the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.
  • The fastest car didn’t win Sunday’s race.

In an extended, dramatic, nail-biting green-flag run to the finish, Buescher held off hard-charging Martin Truex Jr. to win his second straight Cup Series race.

Buescher Strong atn Michigan International Speedway / NASCAR Photo

With team co-owner Brad Keselowski finishing fourth and Buescher winning—the ninth straight victory for Ford drivers at the 2.0-mile speedway—RFK can claim bragging rights as the top Ford team in the Cup garage, at least for now.

When the race resumed at Lap 75 on Monday after a postponement from Sunday because of rain, Chase Elliott wasn’t on the track, having crashed out in 36th place on Lap 35 the day before.

Elliott’s deficit to the Playoff cut line grew to 55 points; realistically, the 2020 series champion will have to win one of the next three races to avoid missing the postseason for the first time in his career.

Eight days after winning his first race of the season on the .75-mile Richmond Raceway short track, Buescher proved himself a formidable competitor lap after lap in holding off Truex, who arguably was the fastest car in the race.

With Truex closing the distance between the cars over the final six laps, Buescher roared off turn four and crossed the finish line .152 seconds ahead of the runner-up.

Good Clean Racing

“This Castrol Mustang was so good in practice, qualifying,” said Buescher, who picked up his fourth career victory. “Gave me a great car again. Had to work for that one too, hard racing at the end.”

“Martin was very clean with me. I appreciate that. Get to go to Victory Lane two weeks in a row. That’s pretty awesome.”

With 13 laps to go, Truex had his best chance. Buescher slipped slightly off Turn 4, and Truex pulled alongside. The No. 19 edged ahead to the inside, but Buescher doggedly kept Truex beside him for nearly two laps.

Rounding Turn 4 on Lap 188 of 400, Buescher held Truex’s car to the bottom of the track, forcing Truex to slip and lift off the gas. Truex also had to clear the lapped car of Michael McDowell as Buescher opened a gap of 10 car lengths. That gave Buescher enough of a margin to hold off Truex for the win over the final 11 circuits.

Chris Buescher Leads Martin Truex at Michigan International Speedway / NASCAR Photo

“I think we needed maybe a little bit longer run to wear the tires some more,” said Truex, who swept the first two stages and increased his series lead to 57 points over second-place Denny Hamlin, who finished third on Monday. “I feel like we were a little better. It’s hard to pass the leader on equal tires.” 

“We had an unbelievable car today. Hats off to everybody that puts in the work on these things… It was a rocket. The leader in clean air is really, really hard to pass. Just didn’t quite have enough. All in all, a good day.”

 “Tough to get a win here. We’ve been really good in the past. Just can’t get it done. Hopefully, I don’t know, maybe next year.”

Kyle Larson finished fifth, followed by Daniel Suarez, Ross Chastain, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Blaney and Erik Jones. Ty Gibbs came home 11th and supplanted McDowell in the 16th and final Playoff-eligible position. McDowell trails Gibbs by three points, with Suarez five points back.

With Buescher winning his second race and qualifying for the postseason, all the single-race winners this season also clinched Playoff berths on Monday: Christopher Bell, Chastain, Blaney, Joey Logano, Tyler Reddick, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Bell, the Michigan pole winner, damaged his car severely with a spin into the wall on Lap 65 on Sunday, but after repeated trips to pit road for repairs, he salvaged a 13th-place result.

Playoff Standings

Chris Buescher’s win means one driver will qualify for the Cup Series Playoffs on Points alone. With three races left in the regular season, there are currently four drivers holding down the final four spots.

Five points separate Ty Gibbs in the 16th and final playoff spot from Daniel Suarez and three points from Michael McDowell in the 17th position.

RK DRIVER POINTS STATUS
1 William Byron 703 In Win(4)
2 Martin Truex Jr. 799 In Win(3)
3 Kyle Busch 649 In Win(3)
4 Denny Hamlin 742 In Win(2)
5 Kyle Larson 662 In Win(2)
6 Chris Buescher* 639 In Win(2)
7 Christopher Bell 677 In Win
8 Ross Chastain 656 In Win
9 Ryan Blaney* 642 In Win
10 Joey Logano* 636 In Win
11 Tyler Reddick 609 In Win
12 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 530 In Win
13 Kevin Harvick* 663 +180
14 Brad Keselowski* 651 +168
15 Bubba Wallace 541 +58
16 Ty Gibbs 486 +3
NASCAR Cup Series Cut Line
17 Michael McDowell* 483 -3
18 Daniel Suarez 481 -5
19 AJ Allmendinger 462 -24
20 Alex Bowman 442 -44
21 Austin Cindric* 433 -53
22 Chase Elliott 431 -55
23 Justin Haley 414 -72
24 Aric Almirola* 405 -81
25 Ryan Preece* 397 -89

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Results of the Firekeeper 400 from Michigan International Speedway

Pos No Driver Laps
1 17 Chris Buescher 200
2 19 Martin Truex Jr. 200
3 11 Denny Hamlin 200
4 6 Brad Keselowski 200
5 5 Kyle Larson 200
6 99 Daniel Suárez 200
7 1 Ross Chastain 200
8 4 Kevin Harvick 200
9 12 Ryan Blaney 200
10 43 Erik Jones 200
11 54 Ty Gibbs 200
12 2 Austin Cindric 200
13 20 Christopher Bell 200
14 22 Joey Logano 200
15 7 Corey LaJoie 200
16 10 Aric Almirola 200
17 21 Harrison Burton 200
18 23 Bubba Wallace 200
19 3 Austin Dillon 200
20 77 Ty Dillon 200
21 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 200
22 41 Ryan Preece 199
23 31 Justin Haley 199
24 34 Michael McDowell 199
25 51 Cole Custer 199
26 16 A. J. Allmendinger 199
27 15 J. J. Yeley 199
28 62 Austin Hill 198
29 38 Todd Gilliland 197
30 45 Tyler Reddick 197
31 14 Chase Briscoe 197
32 78 Josh Bilicki 196
33 48 Alex Bowman 134
34 42 Josh Berry 50
35 24 William Byron 46
36 9 Chase Elliott 34
37 8 Kyle Busch 14