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Chris Buescher, No. 17 RFK Racing Team Break Through at Richmond

The driver of the No. 17 Fastenal Ford Mustang was able to hold Denny Hamlin at bay on a late-race restart to secure the third win of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Sunday's Cook Out 400.


hero image for Chris Buescher, No. 17 RFK Racing Team Break Through at Richmond

The RFK Racing team had been knocking on the door of victory lane all season long, as the two-car team had racked up a total of 16 top-10 finishes in NASCAR Cup Series competition heading into this weekend.

After a strong effort for both team cars in the Cook Out 400 at Richmond Raceway on Sunday, Chris Buescher kicked the door down and scored a statement win at the 0.750-mile short track in Virginia.

RELATED: NASCAR Cup Series Cook Out 400 Race Results

Following his first triumph of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, Buescher stated that it's been a total team effort to get the team to where it is today.

"There's so much that has happened in the 15 years I've been there," Buescher said of the RFK Racing team. "The last two years, [really] the last 18 months to see the turnaround, the new car kind of being a good reset for us to be able to be competing for wins on a lot of different styles of race tracks, and a couple of checkered flags, now. Some great pit strategy there, some great pit stops. It's every department working hard to make this happen and get us this checkered flag."

Buescher, who started the day all the way back in the 26th position in the No. 17 Fastenal Ford Mustang, forged his way forward throughout the entirety of the event.

After grinding his way to the top-15, then the top 10, and eventually the top five, Buescher took the lead for the first time on Lap 305 following the cycle of a green flag pit sequence, which saw his RFK Racing teammate Brad Keselowski make a mistake on pit road, which lost him the lead and ultimately cost him a shot at battling Buescher for the race win.

With Keselowski back in the running order, it was domination for Buescher, as he led 88 laps down the stretch on the path to victory lane. However, Buescher had to endure one scare -- a late-race caution -- with nine laps remaining.

"Just trying to take care of it there, and about the time [crew chief] Scott [Graves] came on the radio and said, 'That's perfect, keep it up,' caution," Buescher recalled. "That's about right, but I knew even with our green flag stuff, we were so strong through the race. I had a good feeling about it there. Pretty awesome to pull it off."

The scare was short-lived as on the impending restart, Buescher hit his marks perfectly and he skillfully defended a charging Denny Hamlin to snag his third career NASCAR Cup Series win by a margin of 0.549 sec.

"Proud of everyone. That's a long way from the back this morning. Heck of a race for us," Buescher stated with a smile."

For the 30-year-old racer, it's especially special to score a win at Richmond Raceway, as he used to dread going to the short track. Now, after a win, he's softened that stance some.

"Made it to victory lane at Richmond. I told you to flood this place three years ago," Buescher chuckled. "My opinions are changing quite a bit here. What a day, though. That's awesome."

A runner-up finish signaled the continuation of a recent run of strong finishes for Joe Gibbs Racing's Denny Hamlin. Hamlin, who won last week's event at Pocono Raceway with a little bit of controversy lingering over him, now has four top-three finishes over his last eight starts.

The stout runs as of late have vaulted Hamlin to second in the NASCAR Cup Series regular-season championship standings, and he now sits 39 points behind his JGR teammate Martin Truex Jr.

Kyle Busch, who started from the second position, but looked to have a fifth to 10th-place car for the majority of the race, came home an impressive third.

Joey Logano, likewise, came from nowhere to challenge the leaders on the final restart of the day. The attempt at stealing a win culminated in a fourth-place run for Logano and the No. 22 Team Penske group.

After scoring just three top-five finishes in the opening 14 races of the season, the reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion has racked up four top-five finishes over the last eight races.

Ryan Preece, who had one of the best cars all day long, was just a little too tight on the final restart to seriously challenge for the win, but he did score his season's best finish of fifth. It was the end to a miserable stretch for Preece, who had yet to score a top-10 finish in the opening 21 races of his tenure with Stewart-Haas Racing.

Brad Keselowski, who had a real shot at the win, which evaporated with a miscue heading to pit road late in the race, still brought the No. 6 car home in sixth.

Martin Truex Jr., Aric Almirola, Austin Dillon, and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top-10 finishers in Sunday's Cook Out 400 at Richmond Raceway.

Next up for the NASCAR Cup Series is the FireKeepers Casino 400 at the 2-mile Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan.

That race is scheduled for Sunday, August 6th at 2:30 PM ET. That race will be televised by USA Network and MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the radio broadcast of the event.

Photo Credit: Nigel Kinrade, NKP, Courtesy of Ford Performance

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