Buescher Wins Bristol; Harvick, Busch, RCR Out of Playoffs

BRISTOL, Tenn. (AP) — Chris Buescher closed out a bizarre first round of NASCAR’s playoffs in which none of the title contenders won a race by becoming the 19th winner this season with his victory Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The second win of Buescher’s career marked the first time in this format of NASCAR’s postseason that a playoff driver failed to win a race during a round. Erik Jones won the opener and Bubba Wallace won last week.

Buescher won for RFK Racing, the longtime Jack Roush-owned team that took on Brad Keselowski in the ownership group this season, to give the organization its first win in a points-paying Cup race in over five years. Buescher and Keselowski both won a pair of exhibition races for RFK at Daytona in February.

“This is so special, this team does such a good job,” said Buescher, who won with a late call for two tires on the final pit stop. “It’s special to get RFK into victory lane for the first time.”

The showdown on the Bristol short track was the first elimination race of NASCAR’s playoffs and it was a nail-biter to the very end as at least a dozen of the title contenders had some sort of problem. There was a rash of flat tires for Ford drivers, mechanical problems for Toyota, an engine failure for Kyle Busch and Richard Childress Racing’s two drivers were both involved in a crash.

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The 16-driver field was cut by four, and eliminated from the playoffs were Kevin Harvick, Busch and RCR teammates Austin Dillon and Tyler Reddick.

The opening race of the second round of the playoffs is Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. Blaney won the All-Star race there in May, and Larson won the playoff race there last season when Texas opened the third round and Larson’s victory earned him an automatic berth in the championship finale.

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