23XI Racing and RFK Racing were the stars of the show in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series action at Richmond Raceway, but the latter ultimately stole the spotlight. While the 23XI duo of Tyler Reddick and Bubba Wallace dominated the first stage to finish 1–2, the latter never recovered after a slow pit stop while his team-mate suffered a commitment line violation penalty to drop him out of contention too.
Their team owner Denny Hamlin tried for one last gasp on the final restart with three laps remaining but ran wide while trying to chase down RFK’s Chris Buescher. With Hamlin left to fend off those behind him, Buescher drove off to his first win of 2023 with his boss Brad Keselowski finishing sixth, completing a banner day for the team.
Like 23XI, the RFK duo occupied the top two spots at the end of Stage #2. Keselowski also led the most laps with 102 while Buescher had the second highest at eighty-eight. Buescher enjoyed his third career Cup victory and second at RFK after Bristol, another short track, in 2022. While the team has particularly excelled on short tracks, Buescher feels they have taken strides in their second season under the RFK identity at all track types.
“What I’m proud of at RFK as a group is we don’t have to just talk about short track racing,” Buescher said in his post-race press conference. “We can talk about superspeedway racing and know we’re going to be up front battling for wins, leading laps. We can talk about road course racing and know that we’ve been very competitive at a lot of those and been battling for wins. We can talk about some mile-and-a-halfs and be in the conversation there, as well. Maybe not quite as strong and not have the results, but we’ve had moments at a lot of different styles of race tracks. That’s what I’m most proud of. It would be great if we just stepped up our short track programme and we were competitive at these styles of race tracks. That would put you in a place where we’d be leaving Richmond saying we don’t have another shot until Bristol maybe. I don’t know what the first one would be. That’s not where we’re at.
“We have race tracks that we’re going to be competitive at every week. We do not have to circle race tracks as our chance or this is where we’re going to be really good and we’re going to have to get through this week. We haven’t had that this season. Really didn’t have a whole lot of that last season as well.
“Last season was a building season. It took a lot of work to get there. To see results from all that work is big for us.”
The race was remarkably clean, going without a caution through the first two stages. The lone incident which set up the last restart came with eight laps remaining when Daniel Suárez spun after contact with Noah Gragson. Still, Suárez reached the finish as did all thirty-six cars; it is the first Cup race since 2018 at Homestead where every car completed the race, while the last at Richmond was the 2016 fall event.
While on-track drama was probably scant, plenty took place in the pits. Besides the aforementioned 23XI blunders dooming their day, Aric Almirola suffered a pass-through penalty for a commitment line violation but rebounded for eighth.
In a “continuation” of their clash at Pocono last Sunday, Kyle Larson bumped past Hamlin, though the latter had the last laugh again as he finished second while Larson and Hendrick Motorsports struggled mightily. Chase Elliott was the highest finishing Hendrick driver in a paltry thirteenth while Larson was nineteenth. Regardless, Hamlin expressed understanding for Larson’s action as he was on newer tyres.
|1||26||17||Chris Buescher||RFK Racing||Ford||400||Running|
|2||3||11||Denny Hamlin||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||400||Running|
|3||2||8||Kyle Busch||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||400||Running|
|4||23||22||Joey Logano||Team Penske||Ford||400||Running|
|5||11||41||Ryan Preece||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||400||Running|
|6||13||6||Brad Keselowski||RFK Racing||Ford||400||Running|
|7||10||19||Martin Truex Jr.||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||400||Running|
|8||24||10||Aric Almirola||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||400||Running|
|9||17||3||Austin Dillon||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet||400||Running|
|10||8||4||Kevin Harvick||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||400||Running|
|11||20||14||Chase Briscoe||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford||400||Running|
|12||5||23||Bubba Wallace||23XI Racing||Toyota||400||Running|
|13||4||9||Chase Elliott||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||400||Running|
|14||25||12||Ryan Blaney||Team Penske||Ford||400||Running|
|15||7||54||Ty Gibbs||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||400||Running|
|16||1||45||Tyler Reddick||23XI Racing||Toyota||400||Running|
|17||9||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||JTG Daugherty Racing||Chevrolet||400||Running|
|18||15||48||Alex Bowman||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||400||Running|
|19||14||5||Kyle Larson||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||400||Running|
|20||29||20||Christopher Bell||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota||399||Running|
|21||6||24||William Byron||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet||399||Running|
|22||18||34||Michael McDowell||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||399||Running|
|23||27||43||Erik Jones||Legacy Motor Club||Chevrolet||399||Running|
|24||19||1||Ross Chastain||Trackhouse Racing Team||Chevrolet||399||Running|
|25||16||38||Todd Gilliland||Front Row Motorsports||Ford||399||Running|
|26||30||2||Austin Cindric||Team Penske||Ford||399||Running|
|27||36||16||A.J. Allmendinger||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet||399||Running|
|28||12||42||Noah Gragson||Legacy Motor Club||Chevrolet||398||Running|
|29||32||51||Ryan Newman||Rick Ware Racing||Ford||398||Running|
|30||28||31||Justin Haley||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet||398||Running|
|31||22||21||Harrison Burton||Wood Brothers Racing||Ford||397||Running|
|32||31||7||Corey LaJoie||Spire Motorsports||Chevrolet||397||Running|
|33||33||99||Daniel Suárez||Trackhouse Racing Team||Chevrolet||396||Running|
|34||34||77||Ty Dillon||Spire Motorsports||Chevrolet||396||Running|
|35||35||15||J.J. Yeley*||Rick Ware Racing||Ford||396||Running|
|36||21||78||B.J. McLeod||Live Fast Motorsports||Chevrolet||395||Running|
* – Ineligible for points