DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series regular season came to a close with Chris Buescher winning his third race of the season for RFK Racing in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
Buescher, along with teammate and car owner Brad Keselowski, finished 1-2 for the first time as teammates and it's also RFK's first time taking the top-two spots since Bristol in 2014, when Carl Edwards and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished 1-2.
"So proud to get the car back into Victory Lane in Daytona," Buescher said. "Knew we were coming here with a fast Mustang. Got there at the end. Showed it when it counted."
Buescher also thanked Keselowski for sticking with him and helping the team get its third win of the season for the first time since 2013.
"That’s as much Brad’s win as ours right there," Buescher said. "That was the right help, aggressive, sticking with us. I was waiting for him to do something there come to the finish. I figured we’d be side by side."
Martin Truex Jr. was crowned the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Regular Season Champion, defeating Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin. This comes just one season after Truex Jr. failed to make the postseason.
"The trophy is really cool," Truex Jr. said. "We’re focused on the championship again this year. That feels really good. Really awesome to get those bonus points, just really proud of my team, everybody on our team at JGR, all of our partners giving us the opportunity to be here, have a season like we had."
Truex Jr.'s Toyota teammate Bubba Wallace earned the 16th and final spot in the 2023 Cup Series Playoffs as he made it on points and Ty Gibbs ended up crashing out of the race on the last lap of Stage 2.
"That was the most stressed but also the most locked in I’ve ever been," Wallace said. "Knowing that this place is mostly out of your control, I just tried to focus on doing the things that I could do.
"Proud to be locked into the playoffs. 23XI, third year in, getting both cars in the playoffs. We’ve gone through a lot of trials and tribulations. So proud of the effort we put in."
Due to Wallace securing the final playoff spot, 2020 Cup Series Champion Chase Elliott missed the postseason for the first time in his career. Elliott was out for seven races (six: injury, one: suspension) and not being able to fall back on points put too much pressure on NASCAR's Most Popular Driver to get a walk-off win at Daytona.
However, the No. 9 Chevrolet did make the owner's championship over the No. 23 Toyota, due to Josh Berry, Corey LaJoie and Jordan Taylor piloting the No. 9 when Elliott wasn't in the car.
"Yeah, it’s a bummer, for sure," Elliott said. "Hate the season has worked out like it has. The good news is the car got in in the owner’s points. That’s a big deal. Credit to Alan (Gustafson) and everybody for continuing to work and scratch and claw while I was out to keep our team alive and to give ourselves a chance."
Results from the 2023 Cup Series regular-season finale are listed below:
Other Race Facts
The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs grid is set. The 16 drivers and 10 teams competing for this year's championship are listed here:
Only three NASCAR Cup Series teams had all of their cars make the postseason: RFK Racing (Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher), 23XI Racing (Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick) and JTG Daugherty (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.).
If NASCAR's "win-and-in" rule to make the postseason didn't exist, 15 of 16 drivers who made the playoffs this year would have pointed themselves in any way. The only difference would be Ricky Stenhouse Jr. not advancing to compete for a championship as Daniel Suárez scored more points than him in the regular season.
The Coke Zero Sugar 400 had a terrifying moment when Stewart-Haas Racing's Ryan Preece went airborne with five laps to go. Preece's car barrel rolled multiple times, causing him to leave on a stretcher on Saturday night.
SHR released a statement Sunday morning, saying Preece was discharged from Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach and returned home to North Carolina.
The 2023 GRID Ranking is the seventh year of the world's premier motorsport ranking and was initially released on Sunday, April 2.
Drivers in the seven racing series participating in the ranking (NASCAR, IndyCar, Formula 1, Formula E, World Rally Championship, Repco Supercars, MotoGP) have earned GRID Ratings, which helped determine their seeding during Week 21 of the 2023 GRID Ranking.
MOST RECENT FINISH
Martin Truex Jr.
Week 22 of the GRID Ranking:
The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs will get underway on Sunday, Sept. 3 at Darlington Raceway. Coverage of the Cook Out Southern 500 will begin at 6 p.m. ET on USA Network.
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