Chris Buescher after third at Richmond: "I'm ready for the win"

Chris Buescher never led a lap in Sunday’s race at Richmond but he was on the verge of throwing the NASCAR Cup Series playoff picture into chaos.

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It’s been an up-and-down season for Buescher but as the start of the 2022 playoffs draws near, the RFK Racing driver has shown to have the speed and talent to contend for a win.

A victory is the only way Buescher can make the playoffs at this point and once again on Sunday his performance showed he remains a serious candidate to become the record 16th different driver to win a race this year.

As the final round of green-flag pit stops cycled through late in Sunday’s race, Buescher found himself in a nip-and-tuck battle for the race lead with Kevin Harvick.

Buescher hounded Harvick for more than 40 laps until Christopher Bell ultimately passed him for second with four laps remaining. Harvick held on for the win.

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“Really close. Everyone on our (team) did such a tremendous job overnight because we didn’t know we were in this position (Saturday). I didn't qualify real well, and everyone worked hard and had a fantastic race car,” Buescher said.

“I think it’s a little easy with this (playoff) format to feel like third-place doesn’t matter, but it’s nice to be close and to keep progressing and getting better as we’ve gotten through the summer.”

Buescher said he ultimately “burned the rear tires up” while trying to catch Harvick but at this point in the season he must either win or the No. 17 team misses the playoffs.

“We’ve been fast,” he said. “We just have to put it all together to show those results like we did here today.”

Buescher has had opportunities this season to contend for wins.

He finished second at Sonoma after a hard-fought duel with eventual winner Daniel Suarez and felt he had a car capable of winning at the Indy Road Course three weeks ago, but finished 10th after experiencing a freak fire in his car early in the race.

“We’ve had three or maybe four months now of really solid runs, really good speed, ever since Dover really, that we’ve been really close,” he said. “We’ve had some bad luck, had some mistakes that I’ve got to clean up.

“We’ve made progress through all of it. The results don’t always show it.”

With another road course coming up next weekend at Watkins Glen, N.Y., followed by the regular season finale at unpredictable Daytona, Buescher was asked about his chances.

“I’m excited,” he said. “I’m ready for the win.”

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