Buescher looks like a playoff spoiler at home Texas

One of the first things Brad Keselowski did before buying Jack Roush’s racing team was to check the remaining years on the contract of Chris Buescher, the driver he inherited with his purchase.

He was pleased to learn that Buescher was locked up. But according to Keselowski, that wasn’t long enough.

“I felt like he was a hidden gem of a free agent that wasn’t properly explored, and I felt that way for a couple of years,” Keselowski said. “The first thing, that was literally the first thing I did when I signed the papers … was to give him a contract extension offer.

“I thought he was someone we could build around and get results.”

Buescher earned the first victory for the rebranded RFK Racing last week at Bristol Motor Speedway and the first victory for a Roush car in a points-paying race since Daytona in 2017. Buescher and Keselowski won a pair of qualifying races at Daytona in February.

It also marked the first time in this NASCAR playoff format that non-championship-eligible drivers swept the three first-round races. Now Buescher, a native of Prosper, Texas, is back in his home state hoping to play the spoiler again.

The second round of the playoffs opens Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, where Buescher and Keselowski finished eighth and ninth in May in the All-Star showcase race. Buescher is excited to be part of a loaded racing team.

“I’ve had some really good teammates over the years in various Cup-level organizations, but no one has put in as much effort as Brad Keselowski,” Buescher said. “He’s very passionate about it. He puts in the work, time and effort to be able to make this thing successful and we’ve seen it this year.

“For Brad to come in as an owner and have that faith in me early on meant a lot to me. It’s a pretty big pat on the back when we haven’t always had the results to show for it.”

TEXAS TOO HARD

Texas Motor Speedway has been in the playoff rotation since 2005 and typically has two annual Cup Series stops.

Texas replaced its spring race with the All-Star Race the past two seasons, but the All-Star Race will be in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina next season and Texas will have just one bowl race for the first time since 2005.

The track’s demise can be attributed to the 2017 repaving and reconfiguration of Turns 1 and 2, which reduced the bank from 24 to 20 degrees. Passing has become extremely difficult and NASCAR is looking for solutions to improve the product on the track.

“I don’t like the track and I think they kind of ruined it. Texas, I just don’t like it very much,” said 2020 NASCAR champion Chase Elliott.

The race is worrisome for the remaining 12 drivers in the playoff field because the second round has so many variables. Texas has been a tough track for teams, Talladega Superspeedway is up next and then the field will be stacked by four at The Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“With the unknowns of Talladega and Roval, we look at Texas as a place where we can go forward, try to maximize our points and compete for the win,” Denny Hamlin said. “However, the passing was very difficult in the All-Star race, so I expect it to be like it has been the last few years in Texas.

“Qualifying at the front and having a smooth day on track and pit road will be key for us to have a chance.”

ODDS AND ENDs

Chase Elliott moved back into the points lead after the playoff field was reset for the second round. Austin Cindric is ranked last among the 12 drivers. … Christopher Bell is seventh in the standings, but the Joe Gibbs Racing driver was the only contender in the first round to score three top-five finishes. He was the points leader before the reset and the only driver to earn a place in the second round ahead of Bristol. … Kyle Larson is the FanDuel favorite to win Sunday at Texas.

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