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Jim Utter

Buescher wins at Daytona, Wallace takes final NASCAR playoff spot

The race was sent into a two-lap overtime following a horrific crash involving Ryan Preece with Kevin Harvick in the lead but Buescher and RFK Racing teammate Brad Keselowski behind him.

Buescher, with a push from Keselowski, moved ahead of Harvick shortly after the restart to grab the lead. He then held off his teammate by 0.098 seconds at the checkered flag to claim his third win in the past five races.

It’s the first 1-2 finish for RFK Racing since the 2014 season and Buescher will enter the 2023 playoff field as the fourth seed and the hottest driver in the series.

Race winner Chris Buescher, RFK Racing, Ford Mustang (Photo by: Nigel Kinrade / NKP / Motorsport Images)

“So proud to get the car back into Victory Lane in Daytona. Knew we were coming here with a fast Mustang. Got there at the end. Showed it when it counted,” Buescher said. “That’s as much Brad’s win as ours right there.

“That was the right help, aggressive, sticking with us. I was waiting for him to do something there coming to the finish. I figured we’d be side by side. Looked like it stalled out a little behind there.

“Just so thankful for Brad for all those pushes at the right time. Found each other here and there throughout the race, lost each other, and got back on when it counted.”

Aric Almirola ended up third in the race, Chase Elliott was fourth and will miss the playoffs for the first time in his career and Joey Logano rounded out the top five.

Completing the top-10 were Alex Bowman, Kyle Busch, William Byron, Harvick and Corey LaJoie.

With a repeat winner at Daytona, Bubba Wallace clinched the 16th and final spot in the playoffs based on points and thanks to his 12th place finish.

Joining Buescher and Wallace in the playoffs are regular season champion Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Byron, Christopher Bell, Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Harvick, Busch, Ross Chastain, Logano, Tyler Reddick, Ryan Blaney, Michael McDowell and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Stage 1

Truex got around his teammate, Hamlin, with one lap remaining, then held off another in Bell by 0.120 seconds to take the caution-free Stage 1 win. Harvick ended up third, Ty Gibbs fourth and Logano rounded out the top five.

Pole-winner Chase Briscoe (22) and Hamlin (12) led the most laps but finished 10th and eighth, respectively.

Stage 2

Keselowski picked up the Stage 2 win as the race was placed under caution for a massive wreck that erupted on the last lap.

Bell, running third, got into the back of Gibbs, who got into then-leader Blaney and he got turned into the outside wall to trigger the pileup that collected more than 16 cars.

Busch finished second in the stage, Daniel Suarez was third, Bowman fourth and Byron rounded out the top five.

Stage 3

During the break between Stages 2 and 3 – which included a nearly 10-minute red flag to clean the track of debris – the lead-lap cars all pit with Busch first off pit road. Briscoe remained on the track and inherited the lead on the restart.

With 40 laps remaining, a group of Fords reassumed control of the race with Briscoe and two of his Stewart-Haas Racing teammates leading the way.

The first group of cars to make their final green flag pit stop for fuel to make it to the finish kicked off with 17 laps to go as several cars led by Chastain and Busch hit pit road.

Once the cycle of stops was completed, Harvick emerged as the leader.

With four laps remaining, Preece got turned by Erik Jones and his car barrel-rolled several times in the grass down the backstretch before it came to a stop on its wheels.

It took several minutes but Preece emerged from the car on his own feet. He was transported to the infield care center on a stretcher for precautionary reasons.

The wreck sent the race into a two-lap overtime with Harvick out front followed by Buescher, Keselowski, Elliott and Almirola.

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