Chris Buescher Wins at Daytona, Playoff Field Set

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Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, FL — August 26, 2023

It all comes down to tonight’s NASCAR Cup Series regular season finale, the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway, under the lights. If history is any indicator of what to expect this weekend, everybody has a chance at the win.

Grasping onto the 16th and final available 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoff spot currently on points is 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace, who is hoping to make the postseason for the first time in his career. What bodes well for Wallace is there are only two drivers mathematically eligible to catch him this weekend. Joe Gibbs Racing’s rookie Ty Gibbs is ranked 17th in the Playoff standings outlook, 32 points behind Wallace, and in 18th is Trackhouse Racing’s Daniel Suarez 43 points back from the cutline. But what doesn’t fall in Wallace’s favor is the 14 other drivers that are eligible for the postseason that are facing a ‘Win or Go Home’ situation this weekend and will be vying for that final postseason spot making Saturday night’s showdown that much more intense.

Tonight’s Race

Motocross superstar, the G.O.A.T., Ricky Carmichael drives pace car. He will bring the 39 car field to the green flag and turn them loose for 160 laps, 400 miles around the majestic “World Center of Racing.” Stages are 35/60/65 laps and the Fords of Teammates Chase Briscoe and Aric Almirola are on the front row for tonight’s race.

Stage One

After the entire field raced side-by-side for two laps, Chase Briscoe(14) was pushed to the lead by Aric Almirola(10). The top seven broke away as the outside line began to fade.

Denny Hamlin(11) and Martin Truex Jr.(19) moved to the high side of the track and brought that line to the front. Christopher Bell(20), Ty Gibbs(54), and Bubba Wallace(23) followed, and the five cars dropped to the bottom line, creating their own breakaway.

With four laps to go in the Stage, both lines had stabilized, and it was back to side-by-side racing. Hamlin was the first to take the white flag, and he finished the Stage in eighth place. Truex won the sprint to the green and white checkered flag.

Stage One Results

Pos Car Driver Points
1 19 Martin Truex Jr. 10
2 20 Christopher Bell 9
3 4 Kevin Harvick* 8
4 54 Ty Gibbs 7
5 22 Joey Logano* 6
6 23 Bubba Wallace 5
7 2 Austin Cindric* 4
8 11 Denny Hamlin 3
9 14 Chase Briscoe* 2
10 99 Daniel Suarez 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

Stage Two

Joey Logano(22) won the race off the pit road, nosing out Truex. Kevin Harvick pushed Logano to a slight advantage at the front of the field as everyone raced side-by-side.

Chase Elliott(9) jumped to the top of the track creating a third lane that was able to drive to the front. The three-wide racing scrambled the front of the pack, and every other lap a new car was pushed to the front.

Three Wide at Daytona / NASCAR Photo

Halfway through the Stage, things settled down into two lanes. Ross Chastain(1) was the new leader. He was followed by Logano, Ryan Preece(41), Harvick, and Ryan Blaney(12).

The Fords lined up and pushed Blaney to the lead. Green flag pit stops began with 15 laps to go in the Stage. Manufacturers pitted together, and almost everyone stopped for fuel only.

Denny Hamlin was too fast on pit road and had to return for a drive-through penalty. Once the pack was reformed, Harrison Burton(21) in the Wood Brothers Ford led. With eight laps to go, Daniel Suarez took over the lead with a push from Alex Bowman(48). The front of the field was filled by drivers that need a win to make the playoffs.

With five laps to go, Kyle Busch(8) drove to the front. With a push from Blaney, Ty Gibbs(54) took over the lead. Coming to the Stage ending green and white checkered flag, the “big one” broke loose out of turn four.

Ty Gibbs got turned by his teammate Bell. He got sideways and hit Blaney. The two leaders spun at the front of the field, and a bunch of contenders got taken out of the race. Brad Keselowski avoided the mess and won the Stage.

In addition to Gibbs and Blaney, other drivers involved in the incident included. Austin Cindric(2), Austin Dillon(3), Harvick, Kyle Larson(5), Hamlin, Branden Poole(15), AJ Allmendinger(16), Chris Buescher(17), Bell, Todd Gilliland(36), Tyler Reddick(45), Ricky Stenhouse Jr.(47), and Bowman.

With the car of Ty Gibbs eliminated Bubba Wallace does not have to worry about losing the 16th and final playoff spot by being outpointed. However, if a non-winner in 2023, other than Wallace, takes the checkered flag, they will earn the final spot.

Stage Two Results

Pos Car Driver Points
1 6 Brad Keselowski* 10
2 8 Kyle Busch 9
3 99 Daniel Suarez 8
4 48 Alex Bowman 7
5 24 William Byron 6
6 45 Tyler Reddick 5
7 9 Chase Elliott 4
8 3 Austin Dillon 3
9 1 Ross Chastain 2
10 22 Joey Logano* 1

*Ford Mustang Drivers

The Final Stage

Chase Briscoe and Kyle Busch led the pack back to green flag racing to start the Final Stage.

As the laps began to wind down, the pack sorted out into a single file line. With 30 laps to go, five Fords led the race. Briscoe, Almirola, Preece, Buescher, and Harvick.

A final pit stop for fuel will be required for cars to complete the 160-lap distance. Those stops began with 16 laps to go. Everyone took fuel only, mostly a splash and go. The Fords all pitted with 13 laps to go.

Harvick left the pits in the lead, Elliott and Almirola followed.

With seven laps to go, the pack had reformed. Ryan Preece got turned going down the backstretch and barrel-rolled through the grass. Fortunately, Reece climbed out of the car and was transported to the infield care center.

The accident ultimately sent the race into overtime, with Harvick and Buescher on the front row, Elliott and Keselowski lining up behind them for the restart.

Keselowski pushed Buescher to an advantage as the teammates broke from the pack. Elliott led the remainder of the pack back to the bumper of Keselowski, and they took the white flag. But the two Fords were too strong and once again drove away from the pack. Keselowski, a part of the team ownership group, pushed his driver across the finish line. Bubba Wallace sighed a huge relief as he enters the playoffs as the last driver to qualify for the postseason.

Martin Truex Jr. wrapped up the regular season championship and will take an extra bonus of 15 playoff points into each round of the playoffs.

Playoff Standings

Results of the Coke Zero Sugar 400

Pos No Driver Laps
1 17 Chris Buescher 163
2 6 Brad Keselowski 163
3 10 Aric Almirola 163
4 9 Chase Elliott 163
5 22 Joey Logano 163
6 48 Alex Bowman 163
7 8 Kyle Busch 163
8 24 William Byron 163
9 4 Kevin Harvick 163
10 7 Corey LaJoie 163
11 77 Ty Dillon 163
12 23 Bubba Wallace 163
13 34 Michael McDowell 163
14 62 Austin Hill 163
15 13 Chandler Smith 163
16 20 Christopher Bell 163
17 1 Ross Chastain 163
18 43 Erik Jones 163
19 51 J. J. Yeley 163
20 99 Daniel Suárez 163
21 31 Justin Haley 163
22 42 Josh Berry 163
23 78 B. J. McLeod 163
24 19 Martin Truex Jr. 163
25 45 Tyler Reddick 163
26 11 Denny Hamlin 162
27 5 Kyle Larson 161
28 21 Harrison Burton 160
29 16 A. J. Allmendinger 160
30 14 Chase Briscoe 156
31 41 Ryan Preece 155
32 38 Todd Gilliland 131
33 3 Austin Dillon 102
34 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 96
35 54 Ty Gibbs 94
36 12 Ryan Blaney 94
37 2 Austin Cindric 94
38 36 Riley Herbst 94
39 15 Brennan Poole 93