RFK Racing put together the perfect finish in Saturday’s night race at Daytona as Brad Keselowski pushed Chris Buescher to the win in the closing laps of the regular season finale.
“It’s so awesome,” Buescher said after the win. “So proud to get Fifth Third Bank Ford in victory lane here with this Ford Mustang. What a heck of a push from Brad in those closing laps for that entire restart.
“We lined up and worked to get connected. We hardly came disconnected those last couple of laps and it was a little squirrely at times, but that’s what we work so hard to execute superspeedway racing for two years now. We’ve been so close. We’ve been within the last five laps of so many of these things to finally get it done here tonight is special.”
The RFK duo found each other a couple of times throughout the 163-lap race, but none mattered more than on the final restart. Buescher chose the outside lane in second, with Keselowski lining up just behind. The rest was history as the No. 6 pushed from there to the checkered flag.
“Just a really great day for RFK,” Keselowski said after. “A few weeks ago we were sitting down, kind of going over the goal and visions, what we value. One of the things we brought up was 1-2 finishes. It’s been a long time since this company has had 1-2 finishes. I can’t stay say a specific date.
“Of course, I wanted to be the one on the front of that. Proud nonetheless of Chris and his efforts and both teams, where they’ve grown and come together. Doing all the right things to grow us and to just take us to that next level. Today was just another kind of feather in our cap. We’re really proud.”
Buescher’s day began from the 11th position after a solid qualifying effort on Friday. A calm opening stage of 35 laps would put the Fifth Third Ford in 13th at the first race break.
Stage two ran clean until the green-checkered flag flew, when a 13-car incident occurred at the line. Buescher sustained minor damage but was on his way following some left-rear work.
He and teammate Keselowski begin to find each other in the closing laps as Buescher got up to fourth with 20 to go, with the No. 6 just two spots behind. They hit pit road together with 14 laps remaining, and were scored 2-3 when the final yellow flew at lap 157 for a vicious incident involving the No. 41.
From there, just a green-white-checkered finish stood between Buescher and the victory as he got the push on the green flag, and drove to the win from there.
Keselowski rolled off the grid 12th Saturday night and employed an early strategy to stay near the tail end of the field. He was scored 31st to end the opening stage, and restarted 27th for stage two.
Following a fuel-only pit stop at lap 83, Keselowski maneuvered his way back into the top-10 as the stage two laps concluded. The multi-car incident to end the segment put Keselowski P1 for stage two, picking up max points in the stage alone.
He began the third stage in seventh, and was sixth with 20 to go. Following the final green-flag stop and the last big incident, Keselowski lined up just behind Buescher on the last restart and never lifted, earning a second-place finish behind the No. 17.
Darlington Raceway plays host to the first race of the 2023 NASCAR Playoffs next weekend. Race coverage Sunday is set for 6 p.m. ET on USA Network, with radio coverage on MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.