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At Daytona, both cars were in contention for the win before late-race chaos derailed their chance of capturing the trophy, but Chris Buescher still came away with a fourth-place result. Fontana was a quieter race, but still solid overall. Brad Keselowski was seventh despite a mid-race spin and Buescher 13th at the end of the day.
However, Las Vegas Motor Speedway is the first true test of where RFK — and all other teams are at in 2023.
“Fontana is hard just based on the asphalt condition, the lanes, the seams. It’s a fantastic racetrack and I’m definitely bummed that that was the last one there, but I don’t know if it’s a true read for any other places other than maybe Homestead as we head later into the year,” explained Buescher in a Thursday media availability.
He continued: “But Vegas will be very important to look at because it does have a lot of similarities to a lot of the other mile-and-a-halves that we’ll be going to. This will be a good test this weekend to see where we stack up, what we need to work on and what we’ve done right through the offseason.”
Both drivers finished in the back half of the field in last March’s Vegas race, the first true intermediate track of the season. And with 1.5-milers making up a majority of the schedule, it’s critical that RFK find pace this weekend. If not, 2023 could be another uphill climb for the organization.
Buescher, who won the Bristol night race last September, sits sixth in the standings after the first two races.
“It’s definitely a good start for us,” said Buescher. “Daytona, we knew we’d be fast down there. We always have been, but we were able to finish it out this time and that makes a big difference. We don’t have a trophy to show for it and I’m a little bit bummed about that still, but it’s still a really solid beginning there.
“Going out west, last year was especially difficult with the new car and very limited practice. We were fighting a lot of tire issues and we ended up with some really rough finishes out there. Even though we ran better than where we finished, at the end of the day it didn’t set us off on a good start for the year. We’re in a much better place now. Fontana, we ended up running pretty decent. We missed it a little bit on the start and really would have loved to have had some practice, as would everybody, but after that we feel like we have a decent idea going into Phoenix. Brad did the test there a few months back and was really happy with the race car there and the new package. I think we have a lot of good things coming at us here, and I feel like we’re in a good spot to head out west for the next few weeks and keep that momentum going as we come back to the home coast.”
Race winner Chris Buescher, RFK Racing, Ford Mustang
Photo by: Matthew T. Thacker / NKP / Motorsport Images
NASCAR announced this week that the package tested at Phoenix during the off-season will indeed be implemented for road courses and most short tracks, which could mean a slight advantage for teams like RFK who took part.