Chris Buescher earned his third NASCAR Cup Series victory on Sunday at Richmond, making him an eligible candidate for the 2023 playoff field.

After taking the lead on lap 347 of the 400-lap race from Martin Truex Jr., Buescher appeared to be cruising to an easy victory. Truex was using a different tire strategy than Buescher and the other leaders, so Buescher had little trouble passing him.

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Buescher had to stave off Denny Hamlin and other competitors for the final three laps due to a late caution for Daniel Suárez spinning off Noah Gragson’s bumper.

In the third stage, Buescher and his Roush Fenway Keselowski teammate Brad Keselowski led the pack. However, Keselowski eliminated himself from contention for the victory with a poor pit entrance and pit stop during the last green-flag stops of the race. Keselowski pitted a lap before Buescher, who then led by six seconds when he re-entered the race.

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In the points standings before into Sunday’s race, Buescher stood 13th, more than 100 points clear of the driver in 17th. Buescher was going to be part of the 2023 playoff field despite not having a win unless his performance declined over the final four races of the regular season or there was an unlikely flurry of first-time winners.

Seven years ago, Buescher qualified for the playoffs with a win at Pocono that was cut short by fog while he was racing for Front Row Motorsports. His worst performance in the first round of the playoffs was a 23rd-place finish, and he came in last among playoff drivers that season.

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Buescher isn’t a title contender, but he poses a chance to at least move forward one or two rounds. He is the defending champion of the Bristol fall race and has finished in the top five four times and in the top ten nine times through the first 22 races of the season.