(Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service/MRN) With Chase Elliott pursuing him relentlessly for the final 50 laps, Chris Buescher held on to win Saturday’s Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, becoming the 19th different NASCAR Cup Series winner this season.
After the event that set the field for the Round of 12 in the series playoffs — and eliminated superstars Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick from the postseason — a dozen drivers were breathing sighs of relief and hoping fervently for a return to stock-car sanity in the next round.
A two-tire pit stop under caution on Lap 438 of 500 put Reddick in the lead for a restart on Lap 444. The driver of the No. 17 Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing Ford led the final 61 laps and a race-high 169 overall to give the RFK organization its first victory since Ricky Stenhouse Jr. took the checkered flag at Daytona on July 1, 2017 at Daytona.
The victory was the first for RFK Racing since Brad Keselowski joined the organization as an owner/driver after the 2021 season.
Buescher was the third straight non-Playoff driver to win a race in the Round of 16, an unprecedented occurrence.
Elliott was .458 seconds behind Buescher at the finish. William Byron came home third, followed by Christopher Bell, who posted his third straight top-five finish in the Round of 16. Kyle Larson was fifth and Ross Chastain sixth, as all five drivers immediately behind Buescher in the finishing order advanced to the Round of 12.
Denny Hamlin, Chase Briscoe, Daniel Suarez, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney and Alex Bowman also clinched spots in the next round, though all had serious issues during the race.
Needing a victory to advance to the next round, Harvick ran consistently in the top five after staying out at the end of Stage 1 to gain track position. But Harvick‘s chances evaporated in the pits on Lap 438 when his crew failed to secure the left-rear on his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.
As the tire rolled away, Harvick had to back up into his pit stall. The lost time left him 10th for the final restart on Lap 444. That‘s where he finished, exiting the Playoffs in 16th place.
Busch‘s ouster was a touch-and-go affair. Both he and Tyler Reddick fell two points short after Austin Cindric, who finished seven laps down in 20th place but gained enough positions by passing backmarkers to advance.
Busch had accumulated 14 points in the first two stages and was running above the elimination line when his engine blew on Lap 270—Busch‘s second such failure in the three Playoff races.
Reddick and Richard Childress Racing teammate Austin Dillon both failed to make the Round of 12 after both drivers‘ Chevrolets were damaged in a 12-car pileup on the backstretch on Lap 277. Reddick finished 25th and Dillon 31st.
For a complete recap of Saturday’s race, follow this link to MRN.com.
(Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service/MRN) Make it three in a row for Noah Gragson, who has built enormous momentum as the NASCAR Xfinity Series moves into its seven-race playoff.
On 90-lap older tires, Gragson held off Brandon Jones, the driver who will take his seat in the No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet next year, in a 20-lap green-flag run to the finish of Friday night‘s Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The victory was Gragson‘s third straight in the series, his sixth of the season and the 11th of his career.
The race also settled the series playoff picture. Despite power-steering issues, Daniel Hemric clinched one of the two available spots in the 12-driver playoff field with a 20th-place finish. Ryan Sieg claimed the final berth, finishing 10th—his first top-10 run in 16 Bristol starts—after brake issues sent Landon Cassill to the garage for 112 laps and relegated him to 35th.
AJ Allmendinger clinched his second straight Regular Season Championship with a sixth-place result.
Austin Hill finished third, followed by Sam Mayer and Riley Herbst. Allmendinger, Josh Berry, Stefan Parsons, Allgaier and Sieg completed the top 10.
For more on Friday’s race, follow this link to MRN.com.