May 28, 2019 | By Lee Spencer

Chris Buescher on the upswing heading to site of his only Cup win

Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

The mercury had barely dipped below 90 when Chris Buescher completed the 600-mile marathon at Charlotte Motor Speedway. 

Sweltering temperatures weren’t the only challenge facing the 27-year-old driver. When Buescher’s No. 37 Kroger Chevrolet pounded the Turn 4 wall on Lap 127, he fell off the lead lap. Then NASCAR penalized the driver for pitting prematurely.  
 
But over the next 273 laps, Buescher soldiered on to his best finish of the 2019 season—and probably had enough adrenaline pumping through his veins to race another 100 miles.
 
“I ended up sixth--what a great night for us,” Buescher said. “Our Camaro ZL1 had great speed from the drop of the green. The second stage we just tried to get it up a little too high, and I got up in the fence. I cut a tire down later and lost a lap, but this group did a terrific job of repairing it.
 
“We knew we had speed still, and the pit crew did a terrific job. We were able to come out there at the end and get an awesome finish. We have to keep improving a little bit, but it was a pretty awesome night.”
 
Buescher was the only Chevrolet driver outside of the Hendrick Motorsports camp to finish in the top 10—his second top 10 in as many points races. Only fourth-place Chase Elliott posted a better result in a Camaro. On intermediate tracks this season, Buescher has an average finish of 12.6. 
 
Buescher gained a lot of confidence following his 10th-place finish at Kansas. Improving upon that run was a bigger boost for the driver.
 
“We’re in a great place,” Buescher said. “We have a lot of work to do yet. It ended up being a good points night. I would think we’ll need a win (to get into the Playoffs). We have a handful of good tracks coming up for us where I think we have some good opportunities, but we’ve had great runs everywhere this season.”
 
With three top 10s and 10 laps led in the first 13 races, the Trent Owens-led JTG Daugherty Racing team has already surpassed its totals for last year. Buescher, who is 22nd in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup points has also shaved five positions from his position in the standings at the halfway point of the regular season. 
 
“There’s not one thing we’ve done to get here but a handful of things,” Buescher said.“I finally have some continuity with this group. I’ve got some chemistry built up. JTG Daugherty Racing worked extremely hard during the off-season to really be prepared for this package. We did a lot of homework and took advantage of the resources we have available. We have what we need to go racing thanks to Kroger, Bush’s, Scott’s, Clorox and all of the brands you see on the race car every week. It’s the combination of those brands that allow us to come to the track and be competitive.”
 
Owens believes the current aerodynamic/engine package—which is similar to the setup Buescher raced to the 2015 Xfinity Series title—suits his driver.
 
“We’ve had other runs this year where Chris was capable of achieving top 10s, but he finally finished a couple,” Owens said. “He has done an excellent job getting the car good in practice with the feel he needs in different race conditions with this package. 
 
“At Charlotte, in particular, his restarts were key to that finish.”
 
On Sunday, Buescher worked his way back to the lucky dog position for the Lap 315 restart. He came from outside of the top 20 over the final three cautions and 85 laps to finish sixth. 
 
Buescher is encouraged by the tracks coming up on the schedule, including this weekend’s race at Pocono Raceway—the site of Buescher’s first and only Cup victory in 2016.
 
During his rookie season, Buescher was under the direction of veteran Roush Fenway Racing crew chief Bob Osborne at Front Row Motorsports. Rain delayed the race until Monday—and then again midway through the event. Fog followed and blanketed the 2.5-mile track with less than 30 laps to decide the contest. In the deteriorating conditions, Osborne elected not to pit when the cars ahead of Buescher in the running order came in for service. Buescher had led 12 laps when NASCAR called the race for fog with 22 laps remaining.
 
But Buescher never made it to Victory Lane, thanks to the inclement weather
 
“That’s how ridiculous that win went,” Buescher said with a smile. “I got to go back to the garage—which was awesome. Pretty cool moment. I like the track. It’s not my favorite by any means, but I do like it because it’s different. It creates something that we don’t do every week. And having a win there is awesome as well.
 
“I like to tell everybody I got fogged out of an ARCA win there in 2011, so I like to think the Cup win was payback for that one. I’ll take the tradeoff. I think it worked out really well.”

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