After the completion of the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway, we can hold the follow 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.
“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 Camry 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.
“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.