The NASCAR Cup Series playoffs got underway at Darlington Raceway and Kyle Larson punched his ticket to advance to the next round after winning the Southern 500 on Sunday night.

Rousch Fenway Keselowski Racing drivers Chris Buescher and Brad Keselowski both finished in the Top 10 with Buescher making the podium in third place and Keselowski finished sixth.

“It’s good for Darlington, good for the Southern 500,” Buescher said on NASCAR’s postrace coverage. “I’m proud of that, but it also hurts just a little bit to be that close.”

Buescher’s No. 17 Ford Mustang did have the opportunity three times on restarts when they lined up alongside Larson on the inside, but the No. 5 car was just faster.

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“We had a chance and got close with Brad (Keselowski) pushing us on one of those restarts,” Buescher explained. “The outside had the momentum for sure. They were really good.”

Prior to Sunday’s race, Buescher had never cracked the Top 5 with his best finish being ninth, which he did at both races in 2021. Buescher hopes the momentum will carry over into the next nine races of the playoffs.

“We know what we’re doing. We’ve been doing it, and it’s been working. It’s been resulting in wins,” Buescher said. “So, it’s not that we need to change up what we’re after. It’s just the status quo right now. The things we’re doing are getting us opportunities to win races.”

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As the Cup Series playoffs shift to Kansas Speedway on Sunday, Buescher and Keselowski will look to advance to the next round with a trip to victory lane. Buescher has two Top 10 finishes in Kansas while Keselowski won the race in 2011 and 2019 and has five additional Top 5 finishes in his career.

Even if neither of the RFK Racing drivers win at Kansas they will have another chance to advance to the field of 12 by winning the third race at Bristol or by earning enough points to not be one of the four cars eliminated at the conclusion of the third round.

Buescher (4th) and Keselowski (8th) both sit comfortably above the cutoff after the first race, but without a win are not guaranteed a spot in the next round and the goal is to win the championship.

Featured image via Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports Images