Ford Performance – Bristol Night Race Advance

All three major NASCAR Series are in postseason action for the first time this season as the NASCAR Xfinity Series kicks off its seven-race playoff on Friday night at Bristol Motor Speedway. That will be preceded by the start of the Round of 8 for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series on Thursday and followed by the Round of 16 finale for the Cup Series on Saturday night.

 

CURRENT CUP PLAYOFF STANDINGS

With one race remaining in the Round of 16, here’s a look at where Ford drivers stand.

 

5th – Brad Keselowski (+33)

6th – Ryan Blaney (+25)

9th – Chris Buescher (+13)

11th – Joey Logano (+12)

12th – Kevin Harvick (+7)

16th – Michael McDowell (-40)

 

Note: Top 12 advance after Bristol Night Race

Chris Buescher: “I love that racetrack. We’re always really good there, and that makes it exciting. Just pulling up the ramp into Victory Lane was the big moment when it really sunk in. It’s a long race, and there was definitely a lot going on during the race. We knew we were fast but had to run with it there at the end. That first win for RFK as a company was huge. We’ve had a couple since then, and they’ve been no less special, but that first one was a good time which set us on the right track.”

Brad Keselowski: “It was super rewarding – a lot of elation whenever you win. But, when you win a major race, which I think the Bristol Night Race is, and win in the fashion we did with both cars running up-front, it’s really confidence-inspiring.”

Michael McDowell: “I think all these first three races are a wild card, and the only reason I say that is because Darlington has a lot of attrition and action, and then Kansas on a pretty calm and tame racetrack, we’ve seen a lot of tire failures and engine issues. This first round has little nuances I feel like. But Bristol – short track, high banks and everything happens fast. When somebody starts to spin or something is about to happen, it’s easy to get collected up in the fishbowl aspect of it. That’s probably the toughest thing about Bristol. It’s one of those races that we’ve seen guys overcome issues, come and go. Usually the fastest cars are up front. If you bring speed, you can cover a lot of those issues. There are a lot of variables you can’t control there. Just high-speeds and not a lot of room to get out of the way.”

Ryan Blaney: “It’s a tough race, that’s for sure. Not making any mistakes and staying in for 500 laps is tough. It’s a super tough race – kind of like Darlington. Same thing – hard to run all 500 miles of that place and Bristol is in that same category. Things happen really quickly at Bristol and anything you get behind is super fast. That’s something you have to look out for.”

Joey Logano: “I like Bristol. It’s my favorite track. I love going there. It’s a great stadium environment with the fans right there. It’ll be a tough, grueling 500 laps around there. The track changes a lot from what you have in practice to what you have at the end of the race. It’s pretty cool.”

 

BUESCHER GOING FOR BRISTOL REPEAT

Chris Buescher has been on a hot streak of late having won three of the last six NASCAR Cup Series races, and this weekend he goes into the annual Bristol Night Race looking for a repeat victory.  Buescher earned the first win for the rebranded Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing a year ago when he and his team opted for two tires on their final pit stop with 61 laps remaining.  That decision got Buescher the lead and enabled him to register his second career Cup triumph.  The last driver to win back-to-back Bristol Night Races was Joey Logano in 2015 (See note below).

 

LOGANO WINS BACK-TO-BACK NIGHT RACES

Joey Logano held off a hard-charging Kevin Harvick over the final 25 laps to win the Bristol Night Race for the second consecutive year in 2015.  Logano led four times for 176 laps, including all but four of the final 147 laps and that was because he pitted when the caution came out with 71 laps to go while Penske teammate Brad Keselowski opted to stay out for track position.  Even though Keselowski had the lead on the ensuing restart, Logano’s four fresh tires enabled him to get the lead immediately and he held on over the final 64 circuits to post his 11th career victory.

 
 
 

A THREE SERIES SWEEP

One of the most memorable Ford weekends at Bristol came in August of 2014 when Ford swept all three NASCAR series races – Craftsman Truck, Xfinity and Cup.  Brad Keselowski captured his first NCTS victory while Ryan Blaney took the Xfinity event.  Joey Logano capped the weekend sweep when he passed Matt Kenseth with 45 laps to go and then had to hold off Keselowski to post his third win of the 2014 season.  Logano was in control until caution came out with 69 laps to go.  While he pitted for four tires, Kenseth and others stayed out which put Logano sixth on the ensuing restart with 63 to go.  With fresh tires, however, he was able to move to the front in less than 20 laps and then hold off his Penske teammate down the stretch.  It marked the first time Ford swept all three divisions in the same weekend since 2006 when Mark Martin (NCTS) and Kenseth (NXS and NCS) did it, ironically, at Bristol.

 
 

CUSTER READY FOR POSTSEASON

Cole Custer enters the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs as the fourth seed after winning twice during the regular season (Portland and Chicago). This will mark Custer’s fourth playoff appearance in the series. He finished fifth in 2017 and then posted back-to-back second place finishes in 2018, when he delivered the owner’s championship to Stewart-Haas Racing, and 2019. Friday night will mark Custer’s seventh series start at Bristol Motor Speedway and while he’s still looking for his first win, he does have four top-10 and a pair of top-5 finishes.

 
 
 

THREE FORD DRIVERS STILL ALIVE

Defending series champion Zane Smith of Front Row Motorsports, along with ThorSport drivers Ty Majeski and Ben Rhodes, all advanced to the Round of 8 and will continue their respective championship runs on Thursday night. Majeski will be going for back-to-back victories at Bristol after he led the final 45 laps in winning his debut series start last year. Smith will be making his fourth start and looking to improve one spot from a year ago when he finished second while Rhodes attempts to continue a string of Bristol consistency that has seen him post five top-10 finishes in eight starts.

Ford Performance PR