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RFK responds to adversity with much needed Phoenix top-fives

Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher put together full races

NASCAR: Cup Qualifying
Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

RFK Racing really needed a run like they enjoyed on Sunday in the NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway.

A combination of raw speed, some luck on pit decisions, and restart tenacity powered both Chris Buescher and Brad Keselowski to top-fives in the Shriners Children 500. They needed a day like this because both drivers found themselves in early playoff deficits after various misfortunes struck over the first three races and just needed momentum.

Keselowski spent literally all race inside the top-10, avoided a spinning Denny Hamlin late in the race and took two tires on the final caution before driving up to fifth.

“It was a good solid day for us,” Keselowski said. “We want to win these races but we didn’t have anywhere near the speed (Bell) did. I don’t know if anybody did to be quite honest. We put ourselves in good position with a good pit call and a great restart at the end and we just tried to execute.

“The potential is there. We are just one step away and we are going to keep working on it until we get there.”

Buescher gambled on no tires on Lap 218 after pitting on 209, executed on the final restart, and stretched his fuel to a runner-up. While not having the speed that race winner Christopher Bell did, he also thought there was more to unlock for his cars, which actually left him optimistic.

“A heck of a comeback after a rough go the last couple of weeks,” Buescher said. “We had really fast race cars and I am proud to be able to do that today. I didn’t quite see (Bell) there at the end so I know they were lights out.

“We have some work to do to get to that point. What thrills me is we were by no means perfect on balance so we have a lot of room to make this thing better which is awesome. It tells me we can go compete for that thing.”

Buescher is a week removed from suffering a loose wheel that resulted in a crash on Lap 26 at Las Vegas. Since the wheel came off on the track under green flag conditions, it resulted in a two-week race suspension for two crew members, which ended up being jack man Nick Patterson and front tire changer Jakob Prall.

RFK appealed the suspension this week, meaning Patterson and Prall pitted the car this weekend, but it was only a formal delay tactic according to team co-owner Keselowski who knows the decision will be upheld.

RFK Racing does not have reserve crew members so they needed the week to figure out where those two crew members would come from.

“By the nature of how the race teams are, we do not carry depth chart of people,” Keselowski said. “I wish we could carry, but it’s expensive.”

He also expressed the irony of this particular infraction because the crew members are suspended in the name of safety for two weeks only to be replaced by less experienced and capable backups.   

“You’d like to have as much time as possible to bring somebody up, to make sure you don’t have the same problem again,” Keselowski said. ” The funny part about the rule is that it leads to more issues.”

Matt Weaver is a Motorsports Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter. 

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