One of the first things Brad Keselowski did before buying a stake in Jack Roush’s racing team was to check how many years were left on the contract of Chris Buscher, the driver he inherited with the purchase.

He was glad to learn that Bucher was closed. But according to Keselovsky, this was not enough.

“I kind of felt like he was a hidden gem of a free agent that wasn’t really explored, and I’ve felt that way for a couple of years,” Keselowski said. “The first thing I did, literally the first thing I did when I signed the papers… was to offer him a contract extension.

“I thought we could build on him and get results.”

Buescher took the first win for the rebranded RFK Racing at Bristol Motor Speedway last week, and the first victory for a Roush car in a points race since Daytona in 2017. Buescher and Keselowski each won a pair of qualifying races at Daytona in February.

For the first time in NASCAR’s playoff format, non-championship-eligible drivers won three first-round races. Now Buescher, a native of Prospero, Texas, is returning to his home state in hopes of playing spoiler again.

The second round of the playoffs opens Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, where Buescher and Keselowski finished eighth and ninth in May’s All-Star exhibition race. Buescher is very excited to be part of a tight racing team.

“I’ve had some really good teammates over the years in different organizations at the Cup level, but no one has put in as much effort as Brad Keselowski,” Buescher said. “He’s very passionate about it. He puts in the work, time and effort to make this thing a success and we’ve seen it this year.

“It meant a lot to me that Brad stepped into the ownership role and believed in me from the start. It’s a pretty big pat on the back when we haven’t always had the results to show for it.”

TEXAS IS TOO TOUGH

Texas Motor Speedway has been in the playoff rotation since 2005 and typically makes two annual stops in the Cup Series.

Texas replaced its spring race with an All-Star race the past two seasons, but the All-Star race will be held in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina next season, marking the first time since 2005 that Texas will have just one Cup race.

The destruction of the speedway can be attributed to the resurfacing and reconfiguration of Turns 1 and 2 in 2017, which reduced the gradient from 24 degrees to 20 degrees. Passing has become extremely difficult and NASCAR is looking for solutions to improve the product on the track.

“I don’t like the racecourse and I think they’ve ruined it. Texas, I just don’t really like it,” said Chase Elliott, the 2020 NASCAR champion.

The race is a concern for the remaining 12 drivers in the playoffs because there are so many variables in the second round. Texas has been a tough track for the teams, with Talladega Superspeedway next up and then the field will be trimmed to four at The Roval at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“With Talladega and Roval being unknown, we look at Texas as a place where we can go ahead and try to increase our points and fight for the win,” Denny Hamlin said. “The passing was very tough in the All-Star race, so I expect it to be like it has been for the last few years in Texas.

“Qualifying ahead and a smooth day on track and pit road will be key for us to have a chance.”

STATES

Chase Elliott moved back into the points lead as the playoff field was reset for the second round. Austin Cindric is ranked last out of 12 drivers. … Christopher Bell sits seventh in the standings, but the Joe Gibbs Racing driver was the only first-round contender to score three top-five finishes. He was the points leader before the reset and the only driver to earn a place in the second round ahead of Bristol. … Kyle Larson is it A FanDuel favorite win on Sunday in Texas.

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