Chris Buescher wins NASCAR regular-season finale after frightening Ryan Preece crash

Ryan Blaney (12), Ty Gibbs (54) and Christopher Bell (20) collide during Saturday's NASCAR Cup race.
Ryan Blaney (12), Ty Gibbs (54) and Christopher Bell (20) collide during Saturday’s NASCAR Cup race at Daytona International Speedway.
(Rob Sweeten / Associated Press)

Chris Buescher won the NASCAR Cup Series regular-season finale at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday night, eliminating fan favorite Chase Elliott from the playoffs and sending Bubba Wallace into the postseason.

Buescher and teammate Brad Keselowski finished 1-2 for RFK Racing, with Buescher winning for the third time in the last five races. Because Buescher already had won, Wallace got the 16th and final playoff spot on points.

Ryan Preece flipped about a dozen times after sliding into the infield grass with six laps to go and came to a halt in his mangled No. 41 Ford. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver was able to get out with help before emergency personnel put him on a gurney and into an ambulance for a quick trip to the infield care center.


Preece’s crash with SHR teammate Chase Briscoe sent the race into overtime. Buescher was out front for the restart and Keselowski stayed in line to keep them 1-2 at the checkered flag.

Seventeen drivers started the night with hopes of securing the final spot.

Elliott needed a victory that never came, even at his favorite tracks. He knew Daytona was a wild card, but he still managed to get to the front and lead two laps early.

He missed six races after breaking his left leg in a snowboarding accident in early March and was suspended for another for intentionally wrecking Denny Hamlin at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May. Those absences left NASCAR’s most popular driver him trying to dig out of a huge hole all summer.

Martin Truex Jr. took the regular-season championship over Denny Hamlin, giving Truex an extra 15 playoff points. Truex and Hamlin were the only drivers vying for the regular-season title at Daytona.

The more notable race was for the final postseason spot. Seven of the 17 drivers vying for the final berth were eliminated in a 12-car melee a little past the midway point.

Ty Gibbs was one of those knocked out of contention. Christopher Bell was pushing Gibbs near the front of the field but got him sideways in Turn 4. Gibbs slammed into race leader Ryan Blaney, turning Blaney’s No. 12 Ford into the outside wall. Blaney hit so hard that at least two tires lifted off the ground.

“I feel like I got pushed in a bad spot,” Gibbs said.

At least nine others were collected in the crash, including Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon and Austin Cindric. NASCAR red-flagged the race for nearly 10 minutes to clean up the carnage.


“It stinks. A lot of cars got tore up. Not fun,” Blaney said.