By Dustin Albino

Chris Buescher was 10 laps away from putting the trauma of being on the losing end of the closest finish in NASCAR Cup Series history behind him. A victory would have been a breakthrough win for RFK Racing and Ford Performance. But for the second consecutive week, he experienced a bitter heartache.

Tyler Reddick set up Buescher entering Turn 3, hoping to regain the lead after leading a career-high 174 laps from the pole position. But when Reddick, a driver with plenty of dirt-racing experience, attempted a slide job, he didn‘t clear Buescher. The two cars made contact and it squished the No. 17 car into the wall.

Both drivers lost two laps after making an unscheduled pit stop to change tires and repair damage. Buescher finished a miserable 30th, with Reddick in 32nd. Brad Keselowski, Buescher‘s team owner and teammate, took over the lead and never looked back.

“We got wrecked. That one is clear as day,” an emphatic Buescher told Fox Sports.

Buescher marched up pit road after the race to find Reddick and shoved the California native upon arrival. A member from the 23XI Racing team intervened to separate the two drivers, though Buescher continued to verbalize his displeasure. Reddick repeatedly apologized.

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“We‘ve raced each other really clean over the years, try to be respectful about it and we get used up,” Buescher said in disbelief. “It‘s something that you just know is not going to work. Really pissed off about it right now. We certainly had a chance to win another one. Really proud to have that speed.”

Reddick wanted to take advantage of having a dominant car, leading a career-high 174 laps and win his second race of the season at one of his favorite tracks on the schedule. Instead, he has to live with potentially costing Buescher the race win or at the very least a podium finish.

“I fully understand where he‘s coming from,” Reddick stated. “He‘s running the top, running his own race, running his own line to keep me at bay. I made a really aggressive move and thought I was going to clear him and when I realized I wasn‘t going to, I tried to check up and not slide into him. I wish I wouldn‘t have done that.”

If the move wouldn‘t work out, Reddick would have been content with only the No. 45 car being damaged. His intention was not to take Buescher out with him.

“Just trying to win the race and to take myself out, that‘s one thing,” Reddick said. “Just disappointed that it played out the way it did and took him out of the race as well. That was not the goal there. If I was going to go for it, I was hoping I was going to clear him and if I hit the wall, pop a tire, I take myself out. I can live with that. It‘s tough to walk away knowing I used someone up and took their chance away from winning the race that‘s raced me cleanly since I came to the Cup Series. I have to work on that and try to make some better decisions going forward.”

The frustration of losing at Kansas by .001 seconds to Kyle Larson at Kansas Speedway last weekend, and showing up with a car plenty capable of winning again only adds to Buescher‘s frustration. Instead of having an additional 10 playoff points, he sits 14th on the playoff grid, only 15 points ahead of the elimination line.

“[Reddick] knows he messed up — he said it — but it doesn‘t change anything for us,” Buescher added. “I told him he‘s got a win sticker on the door and we‘re still trying to find ours. To get used up like that and take away those opportunities is tough.

“That‘s two weeks in a row that we‘ve had shots to win races and one that I‘m going to live in my head forever on what I could have done differently. And this one here, I need someone else to be more mature about it.”

The day was still positive for RFK Racing, as Keselowski snapped a 110-race winless streak to earn his first victory as a driver/owner. It‘s the first time since Tony Stewart in 2016 at Sonoma Raceway that a driver won while competing for the team they own.

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