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Rookie Buescher Wins At Fog-Blanketed Pocono

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, August 1 2016
Bad fog meant good news for Chris Buescher as the Sprint Cup rookie won Monday's rain-delayed race at Pocono Raceway. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Gregg Ellman)

Bad fog meant good news for Chris Buescher as the Sprint Cup rookie won Monday’s rain-delayed race at Pocono Raceway. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Gregg Ellman)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Chris Buescher, a rookie driving for a back-marker team with the wishful-thinking name of Front Row Motorsports, took advantage of bizarre Pennsylvania weather to win the rain-delayed Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway on Monday afternoon.

sprint-logo-08Buescher, who won the Xfinity Series championship last year while driving a Roush Fenway Racing Ford, got the victory in his 27th Cup start and got it because fog ended the race 22 laps prematurely.

“It’s not going to for a while,” the Texas native said when asked if the fact he is now a Cup winner had sunk in yet. “It doesn’t even feel real right now.”

The victory was just the second in 711 starts for Front Row owner Bob Jenkins. It came after the dense fog moved across the 2.5-mile Pocono triangle with his driver taking the lead as most of the other cars in the field pitted under green for the final time in a race that was originally set for Sunday afternoon.

“To get Front Row Motorsports back in victory lane,” Buescher said, “it’s a different way to do it
but we’re having a lot of fun here.”

The victory does not assure Buescher a berth in the Chase. He will need to now finishing the non-playoff portion of the season 30th or better in points. After Monday’s result, Buescher sits 31st in driver points – six out of 30th.

“We got to get there in points,” Buescher said. “We’re in the hunt. We can definitely handle this now. We can get into this Chase now. We’ll go do it the same way we’ve been doing it. We’ve been heading in the right direction, we’ve had a lot of momentum lately, we just need to keep clicking off top-15s. We need to get more competitive here at the end so we can stay in the Chase.”

Brad Keselowski of Team Penske finished second and bummed that the race could not go the scheduled distance.

“Probably five more laps and I think we would have been in great shape,” he said, “but that’s the way it goes.  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.”

Third was another driver for a low-budget team that had not yet pitted during the final sequence, Regan Smith of Tommy Baldwin Racing.

“We got to take the opportunities when they present themselves,” Smith said, “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.
“I’m so happy for Tommy. Tommy has done this for a long time, and his strategy is second to none. He’s as good as anybody when it comes to calling a race and playing the strategy game. I think this is the team’s best non-plate finish ever, so that’s cool, and something that you can really get everybody pumped up at the shop about and take this on to the next race.”

Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart of Stewart-Haas Racing rounded out the top five.

The start of the race Monday was delayed as track workers hit the track to clean up weepers. With that done, Martin Truex Jr. led the field to green to start the race. The pole-sitter hunkered down with the lead and stayed there for 16 laps.

But when a competition caution was signaled on Lap 17, Roush Fenway Racing’s Greg Biffle and Brad Keselowski of Team Penske stayed out and restarted first and second respectively. On the restart lap, Truex wrecked and his shot to win ended.

“Just blew a right front (tire),” Truex said. “A lug nut bounced off the ground, fell in behind the wheel behind a pit stop. It’s just bad luck honestly. I knew something wasn’t right in (Turn) 1 and 2 and I got real tight off of (Turn) 2 on that restart and went down the back and was like, ‘Ah, it feels OK.’ And, as I got closer to the tunnel turn I felt it start to go down and by the time I let off and tried to slow down it was just going straight for the fence.”

Biffle led until he was passed by Team Penske’s Joey Logano on Lap 33. Logano led until Lap 50 when he was passed by Harvick.

Harvick led until Kyle Larson took over on Lap 67.

A lap after the 160-lap race crossed the half way point, leader Larson and second-place Austin Dillon began bumping doors. As they did, Logano blew past the two on the low side and took the lead back.

Four laps later the caution flag waved as a misting rain moved in.

On Lap 92, the green flag waved and the race restarted with Logano in the lead, Kenseth second and Harvick third.

Logano led until a caution was called on Lap 100. Taking over after pit stops was Larson. Restarting second was Keselowski while Busch was third.

On Lap 105, rookie Chase Elliott lost control of his Hendrick Chevrolet. Elliott slammed sideways into Logano, heavily damaging the No. 22 Team Penske car. Logano, who had led 38 laps, saw his shot at the victory ended.

On the resulting restart, which came on Lap 110, Larson led and Busch was next to him. Busch had a great restart, briefly jump to the lead but back came Larson to grab the lead before they hit Turn 1.

On Lap 118, Dillon moved past Busch to take second place from there moved in on Larson and the two drivers who nearly wrecked each other 60 laps earlier were running nose-to-tail.

On Lap 123, the final round of green flag stops began with Keselowski heading in first.

On Lap 126, Larson headed into the pits from the lead.

Buescher and crew chief Bob Osborne opted to stayed out during the cycle and with 28 laps to go, dense fog rolled in and brought out the caution flag to give the rookie driving the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford the lead. Second was Keselowski.

With 22 laps to go, the fog got so dense that the field was red flagged and brought to pit road.

Then, the waiting began for the drivers. Finally, NASCAR, with storms moving into the area, called the race.

“That was stressful,” Buescher said of waiting out the red flag. “I was trying not to get my hopes up because I know how these things can play out. Mother Nature can be real nice some times and can be really mean. If the sun would have come out it would have changed our whole day.”

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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race – Pennsylvania 400

Pocono Raceway

Long Pond, Pennsylvania

Monday, August 01, 2016

  1. (22) Chris Buescher #, Ford, 138.
  2. (7) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 138.
  3. (30) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 138.
  4. (17) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 138.
  5. (6) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 138.
  6. (11) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 138.
  7. (4) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 138.
  8. (2) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 138.
  9. (16) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 138.
  10. (15) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 138.
  11. (18) * Ryan Blaney #, Ford, 138.
  12. (5) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 138.
  13. (12) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 138.
  14. (13) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 138.
  15. (23) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 138.
  16. (21) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 138.
  17. (9) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 138.
  18. (14) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, 138.
  19. (31) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 138.
  20. (19) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 138.
  21. (20) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 138.
  22. (26) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 138.
  23. (29) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 138.
  24. (35) Brian Scott #, Ford, 138.
  25. (25) Greg Biffle, Ford, 138.
  26. (28) Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 138.
  27. (24) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 138.
  28. (34) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 138.
  29. (39) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 137.
  30. (32) Landon Cassill, Ford, 137.
  31. (36) * Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 137.
  32. (33) David Ragan, Toyota, 135.
  33. (8) Chase Elliott #, Chevrolet, 134.
  34. (38) * Josh Wise, Chevrolet, 132.
  35. (3) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 119.
  36. (37) Jeb Burton(i), Ford, 117.
  37. (10) Joey Logano, Ford, 115.
  38. (1) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, Accident, 82.
  39. (27) Aric Almirola, Ford, Accident, 66.
  40. (40) * Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, Engine, 29.

 

Average Speed of Race Winner:  127.581 mph.

Time of Race:  02 Hrs, 42 Mins, 15 Secs. Margin of Victory:  Caution.

Caution Flags:  7 for 31 laps.

Lead Changes:  19 among 11 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   M. Truex Jr 1-16; B. Keselowski 17-18; G. Biffle 19-32; J. Logano 33-50; K. Harvick 51; J. Logano 52; A. Dillon 53; R. Newman 54; B. Keselowski 55-60; K. Harvick 61-66; K. Larson 67-77; A. Dillon 78; K. Larson 79-80; J. Logano 81-99; K. Larson 100-108; Kyle Busch 109; K. Larson 110-124; A. Dillon 125; A. Allmendinger 126; C. Buescher # 127-138.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  J. Logano 3 times for 38 laps; K. Larson 4 times for 37 laps; M. Truex Jr 1 time for 16 laps; G. Biffle 1 time for 14 laps; C. Buescher # 1 time for 12 laps; B. Keselowski 2 times for 8 laps; K. Harvick 2 times for 7 laps; A. Dillon 3 times for 3 laps; R. Newman 1 time for 1 lap; Kyle Busch 1 time for 1 lap; A. Allmendinger 1 time for 1 lap.

Top 16 in Points: K. Harvick – 709; B. Keselowski – 687; Kurt Busch – 658; Kyle Busch – 634; C. Edwards – 626; J. Logano – 612; J. Johnson – 577; M. Truex Jr – 577; D. Hamlin – 576; M. Kenseth – 569; A. Dillon – 549; R. Newman – 537; C. Elliott # – 533; J. Mcmurray – 517; K. Larson – 508; K. Kahne – 488.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, August 1 2016
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