Three NASCAR Cup Series playoff races, three different winners. And not just different, but three first-time winners this season. Chris Buescher made it 3-for-3 after his No. 17 car crossed the checkered line first in the Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday.
Buescher’s win marked the first time he’s claimed a victory since Pocono in 2016. He had gone 222 races since last making the trip to victory lane. Buescher held a sizable lead over Chase Elliott late in Stage 3 of the race, crossing the finish line nearly a half-second ahead of the No. 9 car.
Seven races remain in the playoffs, with the Round of 12 getting underway this Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. Four drivers were eliminated from playoff contention at Bristol, including past champions Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch.
On this week’s edition of Sunday Money, Marty Smith discusses Buescher’s shocking win at Bristol, Harvick and Busch’s early playoff exit and what we can expect going forward in the playoffs.
Chris Buescher Conquers ‘The World’s Fastest Half-Mile’
Buescher, 29, became the 19th different driver to win a Cup Series race this season. Smith talked about Buescher’s victory and the parity that’s been created in the sport.
“RFK [Racing] gets its first win with driver Chris Buescher,” Smith said. “His second-career victory — what a huge win. And it’s just more evidence that the brand new Next Gen racecar has created parity like never before. Yet another first-time winner this season — the entire playoffs so far has been won by drivers not in the playoff.”
Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch Eliminated from NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs
The margin of error was razor thin for Harvick to keep his championship aspirations alive. Simply put, he needed to win following early exits in each of the first two playoff races. He finished 10th at Bristol and is out of championship contention.
Busch, meanwhile, came up two points short of advancing in the playoffs. Busch was plagued by engine problems at both Darlington and Bristol, leading to his elimination.
“There are superstars, former champions who are now gone from the NASCAR playoffs,” Smith said. “It did not work out this year for Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, both former champions, both definitely threats had they been able to make their way to the next tier as the sport heads to Texas Motor Speedway this weekend.”
NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Heads to Texas
Next up on the slate is a 500-mile marathon at Texas Motor Speedway — the same track which hosted the NASCAR All-Star Race in May. The winner of that race? Ryan Blaney, who currently sits eighth in the playoff standings.
“Earlier this year, Texas hosted the NASCAR All-Star Race,” Smith said. “… Ryan Blaney won that race. Look for him to be a threat at Texas this weekend.”
Smith pointed out that the race at Texas will be an important one, as two “wild card” races loom. Those would be Talladega and the ROVAL at Charlotte, which will both be unpredictable races.
“Somebody is going to breathe a hell of a sigh of relief,” Smith said which driver wins at Texas. “… Whoever wins that race at Texas, will certainly move onto the next round and be in a position to make a real run at the championship.”
The green flag will wave for the AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 500 at 2:30 p.m. CT on USA.