Chris Buescher qualified for the 2023 playoff field on Sunday at Richmond thanks to his third NASCAR Cup Series triumph.
Buescher appeared to be winning easily after taking over the lead from Martin Truex Jr. on lap 347 of the 400-lap race. Buescher had little trouble overtaking Truex because he was employing a different tire strategy than the other leaders and leaders at the time.
Due to a late caution for Daniel Suárez spinning off Noah Gragson’s bumper and causing a three-lap delay, Buescher had to hold off Denny Hamlin and other competitors.
In the third stage, Buescher and Brad Keselowski of the Roush Fenway Keselowski team took the lead. But during the final green-flag stops of the race, Keselowski disqualified himself from contention for the win with a subpar pit entrance and pit stop. Buescher had a lead of six seconds when he re-entered the race after Keselowski had pitted a lap earlier.
Prior to Sunday’s race, Buescher was 13th in the points standings, more than 100 points ahead of the driver in 17th. Unless his performance declined over the final four races of the regular season or there was an unlikely flurry of first-time winners, Buescher was going to be in the 2023 playoff field despite not having a win.
When he was competing for Front Row Motorsports seven years ago, Buescher qualified for the playoffs with a victory at Pocono that was cut short by fog. His 23rd-place finish in the first round of the playoffs was his worst performance, and that season, he finished last among playoff drivers.
Although Buescher is not a title contender, he does have a chance to advance at least one or two rounds. In the first 22 races of the season, he has finished in the top five four times and the top ten nine times. He is the defending champion of the Bristol fall race.