Chris Buescher Captures First Career Sprint Cup Series Victory At Pocono Racewayby Camille Jones August 1, 2016 0 comments
LONG POND, Pa.– Rookie Chris Buescher claimed victory in Monday’s weather-shortened Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway, earning his first win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
The 2015 NASCAR XFINITY Series champion is the first Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series since Joey Logano won at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2009. Driving the Front Row Motorsports No. 34 Dockside Logistics Ford Fusion, Buescher claimed his first top-10 finish of the year with his win at Pocono Raceway. Monday’s win is only the second foe Front Row Motorsports. Buescher was still a bit stunned by the thrill of capturing his first victory in the series when he spoke about it after his trip to Victory Lane on Monday.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Buescher said. “It’s pretty good company, as well. Pretty wild day. Pretty eventful weekend,” Buescher said. “A lot of things worked out really well there at the end, and some things that I thought were heading in the wrong direction when I cut a rear tire down just trying to avoid a wreck, and we ended up in a good spot there at the end, and Bob (Osborne, crew chief) made a good call to hold out on the weather and make sure that we could run as far out on fuel as we possibly could, and it worked out really well. The weather got here just when we needed it to.”
The Pennsylvania 400 came a day later than scheduled due to Sunday’s rainy conditions. Monday began with a light mist delaying the 11 a.m. start, with the green flag finally flying just after 12 p.m. ET. The race had brief delays under caution for light rain, but it wasn’t until lap 133 when dense fog took over the track. NASCAR was forced to call the race after over an hour of waiting for the fog to clear. Nearly an entire race; 138 laps of the 160-lap race were completed.
Buescher said, “A lot of things worked out really well there at the end, and some things that I thought were heading in the wrong direction when I cut a rear tire down just trying to avoid a wreck, and we ended up in a good spot there at the end, and Bob made a good call to hold out on the weather and make sure that we could run as far out on fuel as we possibly could, and it worked out really well. The weather got here just when we needed it to.”
Buescher and the No. 34 team were able to stay out later on pit strategy and hold onto the lead, with the caution for fog being thrown only a few laps before he was scheduled to give up the first position.
“All in all, we had a ‑‑ to be honest with you, a top‑15 place car,” said crew chief, Bob Osborne. “It was decent, and it was heading in the right direction from where we were the first race here and for where we are with our program. But with fate really going our way today and calls going our way, which we haven’t had a lot of this year, it worked out to put us in position to win it.”
With the win, Buescher will have a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup if he is inside the top-30 in the championship points standings at the end of the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway on September 10. As of right now, he sits six points out of the Chase.
“I think we talked about it at the beginning of the season, and the plan was always to try and make the Chase, and that was the goal,” Buescher said. “We’re that much closer now. Like I said, we’ve got a hole to dig out of just from Superspeedway racing, but we’re in a good spot, and the cars have been getting faster each and every weekend, and these second times around we’re going to make sure that we have more speed than we did the first time.”
Finishing second on Monday was Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski, in the No. 2 Alliance Truck Parts Ford Fusion. The runner-up finish was Keselowski’s 13th top-10 finish this season and his seventh at Pocono Raceway.
“Probably five more laps and I think we would have been in great shape, but that’s the way it goes,” Keselowski said. “We had really good speed on the green flag pit stop cycle, which got us in a position to take over the lead and hopefully control the race, but there’s nothing you can do about the fog rolling in. That’s just part of it and either way I’m really kind of pumped up for Chris. That’s big to win a race and get in the Chase. It’s been an interesting weekend here in Pocono. It’s been a lot of fun. I’m really proud of everybody on this Alliance Truck Parts Fusion team.”
Also earning a strong finish with strategy in Monday’s event was Regan Smith, the third-place finisher. The finish is only the second top-five for Tommy Baldwin Racing. The last top-five for the team came back in 2011, when Dave Blaney finished third at Talladega Superspeedway’s October race. Driving the No. 7 APC Chevrolet SS on Monday, Smith claimed his second top-10 finish in 11 races at Pocono Raceway.
“Yeah, I think it was obvious we played the same strategy that Buescher and those guys did to get ourselves up there, and as Brad (Keselowski) alluded to, the cloud kind of came at just the right time for us. We were within five or six laps of having to pit, but it’s a credit to my guys for seeing the opportunity to do that strategy, and when you’re a small team working hard to try and go up against some of the bigger teams that we do, you’ve got to take the opportunities when they present themselves, and today and this weekend in general, just kind of had that feeling to it with the rain on and off all weekend long, and we were able to make the most out of it, and it’s something I’m proud of them for doing, and happy for Tommy.”
While Buescher, Keselowski and Smith finished in the top-3 at the 2.5-mile, three-turn track, Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart completed the top-five, finishing fourth and fifth respectively. Completing the top-10 was Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch.
After Monday’s race, Harvick now leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship standings by 22 points over Keselowski. Kurt Busch is third, 51 points back.
With a shortened week ahead before the next race, the drivers and teams will head to Watkins Glen International next weekend for the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen on Sunday, August 7. Live coverage will broadcast on USA and the Motor Racing Network (MRN) at 2:30 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images