BRISTOL, Tenn. — Three NASCAR playoff races, a clean sweep by non-playoff drivers.
Chris Buescher survived a night of heavy attrition and held off 2020 Cup Series champion Chase Elliott to win Saturday’s Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
On a night when multiple drivers had flat tires and power steering failures, Buescher survived the mayhem to become the third straight upset winner. He also became the 19th different race winner this season, a series record.
Buescher’s No. 17 Ford finished just .458 of a second ahead of Elliott, who was fast closing over the final laps. But Buescher held on for his second career Cup Series win, the first since the team became RFK Racing.
For longtime car owner Jack Roush, it was his first win since the Daytona summer race in 2017 with Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
“I had this race circled No. 1 on my list for a long time. It’s so special to get this one at my favorite racetrack,” Buescher said after winning for the first time since Pocono in 2016. “This team does such a great job and it’s so special to win here at Bristol. I love this race track and I love the fans.
“I had an Xfinity race back in 2015 that broke our hearts whenever I thought I had it won. This one makes up for that race. That is really awesome.”
The Texas driver was able to win the race out of the pits after a decision by crew chief Scott Graves to make a two-tire pit stop when the other teams opted to take four tires. Buescher knew he had to be at his best over the final 56 laps to take the checkered flag.
“It was up to me at that point,” Buescher said. “It was just hold on and make it work. We had a really fast car. It’s special to get RFK in victory lane for the first time.”
Brad Keselowski, who became a car owner on the RFK team after the 2021 season, was leading with 75 laps to go when he cut a right front tire and hit the wall. He finished 11th in the race but felt the jubilation of his first win as an owner.
“It was like getting kicked ... and then winning the lottery the same day,” Keselowski said.
Elliott held off Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron for second. Christopher Bell finished fourth in a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota ahead of defending race and series champion Kyle Larson.
“I felt like I was catching him at the end, but I didn’t get close enough to him to do anything with him,” Elliott said. “I liked my car, thought my Chevrolet was driving well there at the end. I don’t think I could have asked for anything more balance-wise.”
Ross Chastain and AJ Allmendinger finished sixth and seventh in a pair of Chevys. Cole Custer in a Ford, Denny Hamlin in a Toyota and Kevin Harvick in a Ford rounded out the top 10.
Keselowski stayed out on the track when other leaders pitted and held off Bell to win stage 1 of the race.
There was a rash of early mechanical issues. The past two race winners — Erik Jones and Bubba Wallace — were eliminated from contention early in the second stage. The power steering went out on Wallace’s No. 45 Toyota, and less than 20 laps later Jones crashed the No. 43 Chevrolet. Both drivers returned to the race laps down.
Bell won the second stage, pulling away from Chastain in the closing laps.
Nine-time Bristol winner Kyle Busch, who won the Food City Dirt Race in April, blew an engine on lap 270. It was Busch’s second blown engine in the last three races. He was one of four drivers eliminated from playoff contention along with Tyler Reddick, Austin Dillon and Harvick.