Focus remains the same for Chris Buescher entering Richmond

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For as excited as Chris Buescher is to go to Richmond International Raceway with a chance to earn a Chase spot, he knows there is more work to do.

Buescher, sitting 30th in points, enters the Federated Auto Parts 400 with an 11-point advantage on 31st-place David Ragan. Buescher needs to remain in the top 30 in points for his win at Pocono Raceway to count toward Chase eligibility. And Richmond, Buescher knows, is one of Ragan’s favorite racetracks, which could make the fight tougher.

“The stressful part of it, I’ve tried to just let that be,” Buescher said after finishing 17th at Darlington Raceway last weekend. “I stressed myself out really bad last year trying to race for points (in the Xfinity Series championship) and being ahead and trying to hang onto it was probably a little bit worse than trying to build a cushion and feel like we’re ready to go. But it’s something that you definitely take note of. We’re coming out here to have good races, and we know that if we do what we come to the racetrack to do every week, then that’s all we can do.”

Buescher has limited experience at Richmond. Saturday night will be his second Sprint Cup start at the Virginia short track. He finished 34th there earlier this year. However, in five Xfinity starts, Buescher has three top-10 finishes.

While he said his No. 34 team would not approach this weekend any different, there will be a heightened sense of awareness. Buescher said he would want to know Ragan’s position throughout the night while he focuses on staying out of trouble.

“Number one priority,” Buescher said. “Number two is to get the most points possible and be aggressive. We need to put ourselves in a position to gain every point that is absolutely possible without taking a huge risk. That’s kind of been the mentality the last couple weeks – gain points but be cautious when you should be.”

A top-15 finish, according to Buescher, should be good enough. It’s what he and crew chief Bob Osborne will seek. As for the feeling of knowing he’s one of the drivers going to Richmond with a shot at making the Sprint Cup playoffs, Buescher couldn’t help but smile.

“It is pretty neat because with the Xfinity Series being a traditional points system last year, we haven’t been in a Chase format,” Buescher said. “I’ve watched a lot of these things play out, and I know how exciting Richmond can be, especially for anyone on a bubble spot. We talk about not trying to let the stress get to you, but you definitely see the stress come out in a lot of drivers.

“The exciting thing is the groove widened out really well last time, and I don’t remember that happening on the Xfinity side, so I’m excited to be able to run the top … We’ll adapt that theory for the weekend, as long as we’re fast up there, and we’ll make it into an exciting race into the Chase.”

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NASCAR shares prayers for Stewart-Haas Racing engineer

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FORT WORTH, Texas — The NASCAR garage is sharing its prayers for Stewart-Haas Racing engineer DJ VanderLey, who was injured Thursday night in a crash during a micro sprint Outlaw race at the Texas Motor Speedway dirt track.

He suffered several fractured vertebrae and has a spinal cord injury, according to a post from his wife Jordan on her Facebook page. 

Two GoFundMe accounts have been set up to help the family with medical costs. 

VanderLey was Chase Briscoe’s engineer for four years, and they are good friends.

“I hate that it happened to anybody,” Briscoe said Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway, “but for it to hit close to home has definitely been tough for me.”

Briscoe said he planned to visit VanderLey in the hospital on Saturday and that “I just hope that everybody continues to pray. That’s really all we can do at this point, trying to hope he gets better.”

Christopher Bell calls VanderLey among his best friends. VanderLey was Bell’s engineer at Kyle Busch Motorsports in 2016. 

Bell spent the night at the hospital and also picked up Jordan VanderLey at the airport when she arrived. 

Stewart-Haas Racing had a decal for VanderLey on Riley Herbst‘s No. 98 Xfinity car for Saturday’s race.

Starting lineup for Texas Cup race: Brad Keselowski wins pole

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Brad Keselowski will be at the front of the field to start Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway (3:30 pm ET, USA Network).

Keselowski, who is not a part of the 12-driver playoff group, won the pole Saturday afternoon with a speed of 188.990, edging Joey Logano‘s 188.805.

MORE: Texas Cup starting lineup

The race is the first of three in the second round of the Cup playoffs. Round of 12 races will follow at Talladega Superspeedway Oct. 2 and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval Oct. 9.

MORE: Waffle House a headquarters for race winners

Also starting in the top five Sunday will be William Byron, Tyler Reddick and Michael McDowell. It is McDowell’s best oval start of the season and his ninth top-10 start of the year.

Brad Keselowski wins Cup pole at Texas Motor Speedway

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Brad Keselowski, hoping to extend Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing’s turnaround, won the pole Saturday for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway.

It was the second piece of good news for RFK Racing in two weeks. Chris Buescher,  Keselowski’s teammate, won last week’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway, the first victory for the team under the RFK banner.

Keselowski, who ran 188.990 mph, is not a part of the 12-driver playoff group. Nine of the first 14 starting positions were filled by playoff drivers.

MORE: Texas Cup qualifying results

Following in the top five Saturday were Joey Logano, William Byron, Tyler Reddick and Michael McDowell. Playoff point leader Chase Elliott will start sixth.

“Texas is a really tough track,” Keselowski told NBC Sports. “As hot as it’s going to be, that will be even tougher.”

Race-time temperatures are expected to be in the mid-90s Sunday.

The race (3:30 p.m. ET), the first event in the second round of the playoffs, will be televised by the USA Network.

Sunday Texas Cup race: Start time, TV info, weather

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The first race in the second round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs is scheduled Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

Twelve drivers are racing for eight spots in the next round. Chase Elliott leads the standings by 15 over Joey Logano entering Sunday’s 500-mile event, the only Cup points race at TMS this year. Ryan Blaney, who is in the playoff group, won the All-Star Race at the track in May.

Chase Briscoe, Alex Bowman, Daniel Suarez and Austin Cindric are below the cutline entering the 3:30 p.m. ET (USA Network) race.

MORE: Big race celebration? Try Waffle House

The playoffs will continue at Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 2) and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Oct. 9).

Details for Sunday’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway:

START: The command to start engines will be given by “Top Gun: Maverick” actors Jay Ellis and Lewis Pullman at 3:38 p.m. (ET) … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:49 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 12:30 p.m. … Driver introductions are at 3 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Bret Shisler of Texas Alliance Raceway Ministries at 3:30 p.m. … The 1st Cavalry Division Band will perform the anthem at 3:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 334 laps (501 miles) on the 1.5-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 105. Stage 2 ends at Lap 210.

MORE: Ryan Blaney’s team to appeal penalty

TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 3:30 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 2:30 p.m. on USA Network. The post-race show will air on USA Network. … Performance Racing Network coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. and also will stream at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Partly cloudy skies. High of 96 with a 5% chance of rain.

LAST TIME: Kyle Larson won by .459 of a second over William Byron last October. Larson led 256 of the race’s 334 laps.

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