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February 20, 2023

Brad Keselowski, Chris Buescher fall short despite RFK Racing’s dominant Daytona 500

Chris Buescher and Brad Keselowski shake hands ahead of the 2023 Daytona 500
James Gilbert
Getty Images

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher produced a banner day for RFK Racing in Sunday’s Daytona 500.

The only problem is neither of them took home a banner to hang.

Buescher powered to a fourth-place finish in double-overtime while Keselowski, the team’s co-owner, was sent careening into the Turn 2 SAFER barrier in the final-lap brouhaha, finishing 22nd and leaving a bitter taste for the teammates after an impressive afternoon in the “Great American Race.”

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Neither has won the sport’s shiniest crown jewel. Keselowski’s plight has been particularly frustrating, often leading laps just to fall short in his pursuit. Sunday saw the 2012 champion lead the most circuits (42) for the second consecutive year. But that’s all he has to show for either, save for wadded-up feelings and plenty of frustration.

Chris Buescher and Brad Keselowski lead as the field whizzes through Turns 3 and 4 in the 2023 Daytona 500
Mike Ehrmann | Getty Images

Keselowski and Buescher worked in literal tandem all afternoon, each driver pushing the other at respective points at the head of the field. Buescher, a winner last year at Bristol Motor Speedway, led 32 laps around the 2.5-mile tri-oval, second-most only to his teammate and car co-owner.

“The performance and the day that we had is fantastic,” Buescher said. “I gotta be careful because I don’t want to take that away from our group back at RFK, from our folks down here with all of our partners — Fastenal and Fifth Third and everybody that’s here with us. And to come down here and have that kind of run, it’s fantastic for both of us.

“You just, you want to hold a trophy at the end of the day, and we’re not holding a trophy right now. So the end result is the only thing that I’m sitting here bummed about at any level. The rest of the day was awesome.”

Crew chief Matt McCall, the shot-caller on the No. 6 RFK Ford of Keselowski, was left wrenching through busted suspension pieces and bent fenders in the Cup Series garage following the checkered flag. All of it was a too-blunt reminder of the missed opportunities that have evaded this team for two straight seasons — and for his driver, even longer at 14 years.

“I mean, it’s as what you plan to do, and it worked out until it didn’t, right?” McCall said of running up front. “So I mean, it’s frustrating, but that’s Daytona and Talladega and probably Atlanta, so we’ll just keep working away and see if we can put it together one time. Feel like last year was similar spot, little closer to it this time, but race over, didn’t matter.”