Chris Buescher claimed his second straight NASCAR Cup Series victory on Monday, but he wasn’t the biggest winner at Michigan International Speedway.
RFK Racing’s Chris Buescher entered last weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Richmond Raceway with two career victories to his name. Two races later, his career win total has doubled.
After winning at the short track, the driver of the No. 17 Ford solidified himself as a legitimate championship contender with a victory in Monday’s rain-postponed FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
The latter win makes Buescher the sixth driver to win multiple races this season. Six other playoff eligible drivers have found victory lane once this year.
Entering this race, there was very little chance that any of the single-race winners would miss the playoffs. The 16 playoff spots officially go to the regular season champion and the 15 drivers who rank next highest in wins.
With 12 winners and four races remaining on the regular season schedule, the only way a winner would have missed the playoffs is if four new winners had emerged in those four races and the regular season champion ended up being a winless driver. In that scenario, the lowest ranking single-race winner in the point standings would have been left on the outside looking in.
While four new winners in the final four regular season races was somewhat plausible, there are no non-winners even close to the top of the standings.
So even before his Michigan win, Chris Buescher was safe in regard to qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs for the first time since 2016.
As a result, the 30-year-old Prosper, Texas native’s win was arguably bigger for the drivers battling for the final four playoff spots than it was for himself.
With Buescher winning, there are still 12 playoff spots occupied by winners, leaving four spots open for drivers to potentially qualify on points. Had a new winner emerged on Monday afternoon, there would be just three spots available, and the playoff cut line may have moved up.
Instead, it still resides between the 16th and 17th place drivers. Just how significant is this? One year ago, the cutoff ended up between the third and fourth place drivers, and as a result, fourth place Martin Truex Jr. failed to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
In fact, if not for Kurt Busch’s injury, third place Ryan Blaney wouldn’t have gotten into the playoffs either — and he still would have missed even if he had finished in second!
So while drivers such as 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace (+58), Joe Gibbs Racing rookie Ty Gibbs (+3), Front Row Motorsports’ Michael McDowell (-3), Trackhouse Racing Team’s Daniel Suarez (-5), and Kaulig Racing’s A.J. Allmendinger (-24) all would have loved to win the FireKeepers Casino 400 themselves to lock into the postseason, Buescher winning was the next best thing for all of them.
As far as non-winners go, nobody is mathematically locked in, but Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick and RFK Racing’s Brad Keselowski have to be feeling pretty good about getting into the postseason, given that they are 180 and 168 points ahead of the cut line, respectively.
The regular season’s final three races are scheduled to take place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course (Sunday, August 13), Watkins Glen International (Sunday, August 20), and Daytona International Speedway (Saturday, August 26).
DraftKings Sportsbook, which is offering fans an instant $150 just for signing up and betting $5, lists Buescher at +2000 to win this year’s championship.
With odds and availability subject to change, lock in your $150 now!
Can Buescher, who has also recently emerged as a strong road course driver, make it three wins in a row in this coming Sunday afternoon’s Verizon 200 at the Brickyard at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course? NBC is set to broadcast the race live beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET. Begin a free trial of FuboTV now and don’t miss it!