It was a good day to be a member of the newly reformed RFK Racing. In their first points-paying outing with Brad Keselowski on board as a driver and an owner, both Keselowski and his teammate Chris Buescher were able to lead their respective duels across the checkers for their respective wins.
“This is a great way to start,” Keselowski said post-race in victory lane. “We didn’t have a great Clash but that doesn’t count. That isn’t official and we got us 10 points to officially start the season and a trophy. That is a good way to go.”
“This is awesome,” Buescher said after his duel victory. “What a great start for RFK and with all the hard work the guys have put in to get this thing going. Everybody back here has worked so hard in the off-season. For us to put it in victory lane is just an awesome start for the entire organization.”
Buescher’s victory was a little more of a struggle as it came down to contact and scoring loops. Joey Logano had the lead, Buescher went low and Logano went around. Buescher was able to stay ahead of Michael McDowell to take the victory.
“I hate to have any contact coming down to the end of the Duels but I am just so proud of everybody,” Buescher said. “It is a really neat way to start this thing off.”
Both RFK drivers co-lead the standings after scoring 10 points a piece, and will enter the Daytona 500 on Sunday afternoon together in the second row of the field. The duels set the field for the 500, and two drivers unfortunately had to go home. In the first duel, JJ Yeley was the odd man out. Unfortunately for MBM Motorsports, Yeley’s teammate Timmy Hill was the other driver out after Duel 2.
Pole sitter Kyle Larson led the field to the green flag, and green flag it would stay through all 60 laps. All eyes were on the transfer spot, as Noah Gragson opted to drop out of the pack and fall back on his qualifying time. That left the battle to be heads up between Kaz Grala and JJ Yeley.
During green flag pit stops, it was a moment of disaster for Grala. Grala sped on pit road and had to return to the pits a second time. This allowed Yeley to gain the advantage through the second part of the race.
As the laps wound down, with only two laps to go, Yeley and his pack of cars wound up falling a second lap down to the leaders, the same lap as Grala. Grala was positioned in a pack of car a few seconds back, and Yeley was unable to keep with the leaders. On the final lap, Grala was able to make the pass and take the transfer, eliminating the first MBM Motorsports car from the 500.
Meanwhile up front, Ryan Blaney took the lead and pulled four of his Ford Performance teammates ahead of the rest. Brad Keselowski, in his first points-paying start with RFK Racing, was hungry for a victory. With four laps to go, Keselowski and Chase Briscoe hooked up and went to the front. Keselowski went on to take the win while Austin Cindric, Blaney and Briscoe finished behind.
DUEL 1 TOP 10 RESULTS
|1||6||Brad Keselowski||RFK Racing|
|2||2||Austin Cindric||Team Penske|
|3||12||Ryan Blaney||Team Penske|
|4||14||Chase Briscoe||Stewart-Haas Racing|
|5||9||Chase Elliott||Hendrick Motorsports|
|6||43||Erik Jones||Petty GMS Racing|
|7||5||Kyle Larson||Hendrick Motorsports|
|8||8||Tyler Reddick||Richard Childress Racing|
|9||45||Kurt Busch||23XI Racing|
|10||1||Ross Chastain||Trackhouse Racing|
The trope is always that one duel is calm and the other is more hectic. While the first duel went caution free, the second duel wound up living up to that on the backstretch of the final lap.
Coming off of Turn 2, Chris Buescher made the move low on leader Joey Logano. Logano came down to block but wound up in the wall instead. Buescher survived and went on to take the win while Logano would end up on the back of a wrecker. Logano will go to a backup car for Sunday. That point is especially important considering the parts shortage currently ailing the sport.
Meanwhile, the battle for the final transfer spot was a bit lacking as compared to the first duel. Jacques Villeneuve had the best time, and thankfully for him he did. The No. 27 ran into issues throughout his duel and had to pull behind the wall early.
That brought it down to Greg Biffle and Timmy Hill. Hill, unfortunately, was way off pace. Biffle had decent pace, but his pit crew did cost him a spot in the main pack and didn’t fill it full of fuel. Despite all of that, Biffle advanced and Hill will go home. It was a double DNQ for MBM Motorsports.
Of note, Denny Hamlin had issues during the green flag stops. He spun out into the grass and did a donut or two. Hamlin wound up 15th at the end of it and will start 30th on Sunday.
DUEL 2 TOP 10 RESULTS
|1||17||Chris Buescher||RFK Racing|
|2||34||Michael McDowell||Front Row Motorsports|
|3||21||Harrison Burton (R)||Wood Brothers Racing|
|4||18||Kyle Busch||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|5||20||Christopher Bell||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|6||19||Martin Truex Jr||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|7||23||Bubba Wallace||23XI Racing|
|8||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr||JTG Daugherty Racing|
|9||22||Joey Logano*||Team Penske|
|10||4||Kevin Harvick||Stewart-Haas Racing|
Columnist / Reporter / Photographer / Webmaster for TheRacingExperts.com