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Buescher Hopes To Celebrate Homecoming At TMS

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, November 7 2015
Chris Buescher hopes to have a really happy homecoming Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Gregg Ellman)

Chris Buescher hopes to have a really happy homecoming Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Gregg Ellman)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

FORT WORTH, Texas – We interrupt Chris Buescher’s pursuit of his first NASCAR XFINITY Series driver’s championship for this Friday night football score:

Prosper High School Eagles 21, Denison Yellow Jackets 10.

Xfinity SeriesA Prosper native, Buescher has enjoyed a crammed week of business and family-related travel as well as media obligations in the lead-up to Saturday’s 11th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway. But priorities in Prosper being what they are, Buescher admitted his championship chase was unlikely to replace the 6-4 Eagles (4-3 in District 5A play) as water cooler chatter in the old hometown.

“Probably not a chance. Probably not a chance,” Buescher said with a laugh Friday after yet another media opportunity at TMS. “I don’t have a whole lot of connections back there anymore. My parents are down in the Austin area, all my friends are off in college for the most part or moved away. It’s just where I grew up, so it’s probably not going to overtake that Friday football stuff.”

Still, even though his family relocated when Chris was 16, the community about a 45-minute drive north of TMS via ever-congested Interstate 35 remains home. “It’s always nice to be back home for sure,” said Buescher, who owns a 27-point lead over reigning series champion Chase Elliott heading into Saturday’s 200-lap/300-miler around TMS’ high-banked, 1.5-mile quadoval.

“I did a lot,” Buescher said of his pre-race schedule. “It was probably the busiest media day I have ever had (Thursday). We came straight from the SEMA show out in Vegas. I went

Texas native Chris Buescher is closing in on the XFINITY Series championship. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Gregg Ellman)

Texas native Chris Buescher is closing in on the XFINITY Series championship. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Gregg Ellman)

mentally broke there pretty quickly just looking around. I went and saw my parents and we got caught up in one of the freak hail storms out here. It’s been a very eventful week. Just trying to make it calm down at this point and hopefully get into this weekend and have everything go a lot smoother than it has up to this point.”

Buescher also visited the Lantana school in the Denton ISD to present the student body with the Texas Motor Speedway Speeding To Read trophy for leading Turn 1 of the competition among 6,500 students from 11 Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex schools.

Buescher, of Roush Fenway Racing, has posted two wins, 11 top-fives and 20 top-10s in 30 starts this season. Buescher needs to finish fourth or better in the final three races to clinch the XFINITY Series championship no matter what any other driver does.

Buescher can clinch as soon as next weekend at Phoenix International Raceway if he exits the 1-mile oval with a lead of 49 or more points ahead of the second-place driver. Regan Smith, who trails runnerup Elliott by six points, remains a title threat to both.

“Yeah, we aren’t crunching numbers yet,” said Buescher, driver of the No. 60 AdvoCare Ford Mustang. “The only number I know is that if we were 100-something points up right now I would feel good. That isn’t the case though. We have three more races. For us it’s about getting top-10’s, run hard and be as aggressive as we need to be to get solid runs in. We know we have the speed. We’ve been fast about everywhere we have gone.

“Texas is a place where our 1.5-mile program at Roush has been much stronger and the later in the year it’s better as we go. We look at tracks where the asphalt is a little older and worn-out have been really good for us. We ran well at Homestead, Atlanta and Darlington. Places like this have been really good for us this year. I look at that as a good chance to go out here and get a top-five and possibly win.

“For me, I’ve been pretty open about where I stand on points racing and I don’t like to just purely points race. But there is a bigger picture right now and I fully understand that and that’s what we’re working toward. If we can get another win and two or three more top-fives then we’ll be in good shape. There is not much else they can do.”

Buescher has made four starts at TMS, posting one top-10 and an average finish of 16.5 with no laps-led. He finished ninth at Texas in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 on April 10, when Erik Jones posted his first series victory while subbing for injured car-owner Kyle Busch.

Buescher logged 60 laps of practice Friday and placed 12th on the speed chart with a hot lap of 182.365 mph. The 2-hour, 25-minute session was topped by Austin Dillon at 184.363 mph after 57 laps in his No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet Camaro.

The Service King Qualifying Days are set for 12:15 p.m. (EST) Saturday for pole qualifying, followed by the race at 3:30 p.m. (TV: NBC, Radio: KRLD-FM 105.3 The Fan/PRN/SiriusXM).

Buescher said team-founder Jack Roush has been helping him plot his season-ending strategy. Jack has arranged stuff to try to help me understand really where we’re at,” Buescher said. “The ARCA championship in 2012 is obviously not of the same caliber. There was more of a cushion there at the time and here we are in these last three and it’s been extremely competitive and we have bounced around that 30-20-point range the last 10 or 15 weeks it seems like.

“When you look at it like that, it’s going to be tough through the last three and if we can just do what we have been doing and keep it in that 20-to-30-point range when we get to Homestead, I feel really good about our chances. Homestead is another one where I feel we should have a legitimate shot to win the race and at least a top-five. Phoenix is the only one I feel we need a top-10 out of it and if we’re better than we have been there in the past we’ll be OK, so we’ll try to work towards that.”

Buescher said teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr., the XFINITY Series champ in 2011 and 2012, has been an invaluable ally. “He told me that both of his (championship runs) were very different,” Buescher said. “One he led up through the end and had to be defensive and the other he was trailing and had to be aggressive as possible to go get it. Unfortunately for me he said he liked being behind and catching back up. He said that was easier on him. That didn’t make me feel any better but at the same time it’s ours to lose so we can control our own destiny, we can’t control what anyone else does. I know that if we go out there and run top-10 and top-five the last three we’ll be just fine.”

If Buescher win the title, he will join Corpus Christi native Bobby Labonte (1991) as just the second Texan to capture a NASCAR XFINITY Series championship. Labonte went on to win the 2000 Sprint Cup championship, joining older brother and two-time Cup champ Terry.

An XFINITY championship stands as a much-needed morale-booster for the Roush Fenway camp, whose Cup drivers _ led by veteran Greg Biffle  _ are in the clutches of another lackluster campaign.

“Yeah. The Cup side is not hidden from anybody,” Buescher said. “Everybody knows the situation there and everybody from our side of it is working extremely hard to fix it. We’re a bunch of racers and we don’t like running that way, I promise you that. Everybody in the shop is just as competitive as the drivers. They’re guys that want to win and have been working at Roush for 30-plus years and ready to get back to where we have been in the past on the Cup side.

“When we look at our side of things, it has been a really good year for us. I don’t have a good explanation for why it’s different between the two (series). I know we have four teams on our side that work extremely well together and good notes from many years of a package with rules that have hardly changed or have just mildly changed and had some variances in. That has enabled us to have a really good notebook as we go to most of the racetracks. We have like 20 races on this package at some of these tracks we go to and that’s an excellent notebook to look at and build off of.

“When you look at it like that, that has really helped us on this side whereas the Cup side as you are trying to catch up when something changes as you have just figured something out that has helped you a little bit then you’re starting over and don’t have a good baseline for the next change. I think that has set us back a little more than we thought it would. I think that on the XFINITY side with the rules package staying pretty consistent it has helped us a lot.”

Buescher said that while his 2016 plans remain undecided he is in no rush to move up to Cup.

“It has been an awesome year for us,” Buescher said. “We’ve gotten a handful of wins and should have had another two that I’m saying were extremely close. I look toward next year and more than likely we will be doing another year of XFINITY and I’m good with that. I think as you look through, there have been a handful of names that have been rushed up ahead and tried to be put into something that they may have thought they were ready for but it’s a very big jump up to the next level.

“I’m glad I got the handful of starts I did with Front Row earlier this year. It made you realize really quickly the competition level and intensity of the racing is a lot different, especially as you close in on the later stages of a race. There are a lot of things that go with moving up, it isn’t just a matter of pure speed. There are a lot of things to learn and if you aren’t ready and don’t perform at that level as soon as you move up it’s very easy to get forgotten about, get labeled and not have that chance again as you go forward.

“If we run another year in the XFINITY in 2016 I’m all for it. I’m in no rush. I turned 23 a couple weeks ago so I’m one of the older guys in XFINITY I feel like now but I’m in no rush. I feel good about where we are at.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, November 7 2015
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