Sunday, May 19, 2024

Chris Buescher goes back to back, wins tango with Truex at Michigan

When the remainder of the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway was postponed to Monday by rain, many expected Martin Truex Jr. to win yet another NASCAR Cup Series Monday race. Chris Buescher had other plans.

The final thirty laps were a dance between Buescher and Truex. After pitting as part of green-flag stops, Buescher rode in eleventh with Truex right behind as those in front of them made their stops. Truex caught Buescher and began a side-by-side duel with twelve laps remaining, only to get loose as they ran three-wide and lapped Michael McDowell.

This allowed Buescher to pull ahead, but the points leader gradually narrowed the gap once more. Despite Truex’s best efforts, he was unable to get on Buescher’s bumper as the latter scored his second consecutive win as he also won at Richmond the previous week; coincidentally, 2022 saw fellow Ford driver Kevin Harvick win back to back at Michigan and Richmond, albeit in reverse order. Buescher is also the first driver to win consecutive races for RFK Racing since Carl Edwards claimed the final two rounds in 2010, while the last #17 driver to achieve the feat was Matt Kenseth with the first two a year prior.

“Where they were so good was just wrapping the bottom. I saw it yesterday in the race. We talked about it when we went in the rain delay, that it felt like the #19 was probably the car to beat,” Buescher commented. “Was just able to manoeuvre, get through traffic very well knowing that we had to commit to a little bit higher, kind of a low, mid-lane to make our minimum lap time to try to make max speed. That was letting him get enough clean air to get really close to us at times.

“Just worked to try and cover as best we could. That one I missed, he got a good run down the bottom, I just didn’t pull the car down the hill far enough, and he was able to pull up on our quarter panel there. I knew that was going to be a very difficult move to defend. Fortunately, at that moment we were close enough to the tail end of the field that we were able to pull a little bit of draft from the outside lane. I guess probably on the unfortunate side, it’s probably also the reason we lost some speed, being that little bit of dirty air. Probably got that a little bit tight.

“It hurt us to get in that position, but also helped pull us out of it. Truex is a very clean racer. Trying to live by that same mindset ourselves so that we can get into those situations and have that level of respect where we’re going to be able to race hard and race clean and get a win out of it but say that we worked for it.”

RFK Racing’s breakout summer continued as team-mate and co-owner Brad Keselowski finished fourth, adding to a sixth at Richmond. He got to lead fifteen laps to keep RFK at the front while Buescher pitted under green.

After settling for second, Truex explained he “just needed a little longer run. I felt like we were a little better, but it is just really hard to pass the leader on equal tyres.”

While RFK had much to celebrate, Hendrick Motorsports was already looking forward to Indianapolis even before the Sunday rain delay. Chase Elliott and William Byron both crashed in the seventy-five laps run on Sunday, while Alex Bowman was taken out in a wreck on lap 128 the next day. Kyle Larson prevented the race from being a complete disaster as he managed a fifth.

23XI Racing also left Michigan in disappointment. Despite the track being one of their stronger circuits, Tyler Reddick and Bubba Wallace were hamstrung by poor pit stops and strategy which included the former having to pit a second time for a loose wheel, leading to an expletive-filled rant on the radio.

Race results

Finish Start Number Driver Team Manufacturer Laps Status
1 4 17 Chris Buescher RFK Racing Ford 200 Running
2 5 19 Martin Truex Jr. Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 200 Running
3 13 11 Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 200 Running
4 12 6 Brad Keselowski RFK Racing Ford 200 Running
5 17 5 Kyle Larson Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 200 Running
6 14 99 Daniel Suárez Trackhouse Racing Team Chevrolet 200 Running
7 2 1 Ross Chastain Trackhouse Racing Team Chevrolet 200 Running
8 22 4 Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 200 Running
9 9 12 Ryan Blaney Team Penske Ford 200 Running
10 25 43 Erik Jones Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet 200 Running
11 3 54 Ty Gibbs Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 200 Running
12 21 2 Austin Cindric Team Penske Ford 200 Running
13 1 20 Christopher Bell Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota 200 Running
14 6 22 Joey Logano Team Penske Ford 200 Running
15 31 7 Corey LaJoie Spire Motorsports Chevrolet 200 Running
16 18 10 Aric Almirola Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 200 Running
17 29 21 Harrison Burton Wood Brothers Racing Ford 200 Running
18 11 23 Bubba Wallace 23XI Racing Toyota 200 Running
19 16 3 Austin Dillon Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 200 Running
20 34 77 Ty Dillon Spire Motorsports Chevrolet 200 Running
21 27 47 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet 200 Running
22 28 41 Ryan Preece Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 199 Running
23 26 31 Justin Haley Kaulig Racing Chevrolet 199 Running
24 23 34 Michael McDowell Front Row Motorsports Ford 199 Running
25 33 51 Cole Custer* Rick Ware Racing Ford 199 Running
26 24 16 A.J. Allmendinger Kaulig Racing Chevrolet 199 Running
27 36 15 J.J. Yeley* Rick Ware Racing Ford 199 Running
28 30 62 Austin Hill* Beard Motorsports Chevrolet 198 Running
29 32 38 Todd Gilliland Front Row Motorsports Ford 197 Running
30 15 45 Tyler Reddick 23XI Racing Toyota 197 Running
31 19 14 Chase Briscoe Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 197 Running
32 37 78 Josh Bilicki* Live Fast Motorsports Chevrolet 196 Running
33 20 48 Alex Bowman Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 134 Steering
34 35 42 Josh Berry* Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet 50 Accident
35 7 24 William Byron Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 46 DVP
36 10 9 Chase Elliott Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet 34 Accident
37 8 8 Kyle Busch Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet 14 Accident
Italics – Competing for Rookie of the Year
* – Ineligible for points