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Buescher Takes Big Step Toward Chase Berth

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, August 22 2016
Chris Buescher drove his way into the top 30 in points at Bristol on Sunday. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Gregg Ellman)

Chris Buescher drove his way into the top 30 in points at Bristol on Sunday. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Gregg Ellman)

BRISTOL, Tenn. – Chris Buescher will be the first to admit that his 2016 season has fallen into the roller-coaster category.

After all, the season was 12 races old before he recorded a top-20 finish at Dover in May. And he sprint-logo-08didn’t acquire a top-15 until Indianapolis in July. That’s why when he emerged victorious the following week at Pocono in a day-delayed, rain-shortened event it was such a major upset.

The 23-year-old rookie’s first-ever NASCAR Sprint Cup victory gave him a shot at the Chase. Now, all he needed to do to solidify a position in the title battle was move into the top 30 in the driver point standings. He accomplished that feat Sunday in the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway with a fifth-place finish to winner Kevin Harvick.

“We came to Bristol knowing that we had speed, that we love this race track, and it was a good chance for us to go out and have an awesome run, that’s exactly what we were able to do,” Buescher said after the race that started on Saturday night but finished on Sunday due to rain. “Points will fall however they will. You can’t focus on them too much because you lose sight of what the main goal is, and that’s to go out and win races.”

With three races remaining before the Chase begins Buescher sits 30th in the standings, 13 points ahead of David Ragan. All the Prosper, Texas, native must do now is maintain that top 30 position as the series moves to Michigan, then Darlington and Richmond.

Buescher is looking forward to the 2-mile Michigan track where he finished 20th in June.

“That’s a place where we can definitely gain a little bit and at least keep even (in the points),” Buescher said. “Roush Yates horsepower is always awesome. They’re always extremely reliable and we’re able to get to the finish every time. Horsepower is always going to be a big part of it.”

Buescher also is looking forward to the tough old Darlington track on Labor Day weekend. He considers the sport’s oldest superspeedway his favorite.

“I absolutely love that place,” Buescher commented.

But then there’s Richmond where he finished 34th in the spring; a track that’s a thorn in Buescher’s side.

“I guess Richmond has got to grow on me a little bit,” Buescher said. “For whatever reason, that one has been tough on me, always.

“I’m excited that we have figured out some stuff in the past nine, 10 weeks that has translated over to a lot of different race tracks and I think it’s definitely something that will translate over to Richmond as well. So that gives me a good confidence boost that we’ll be able to go there with something better than we had the first race. It’s a different kind of race track. It’s a fun race track; I’ve just got to run better there.”

Buescher said his team’s game plan was to gain as many points as possible at Michigan and Darlington so they could enter Richmond with a little buffer even though he expects to be competitive at the three-quarter mile track.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who gave Roush Fenway Racing its best finish this season with his second at Bristol, said Buescher and crew chief Bob Osborne participated in all of the Roush Fenway team meetings.

“We share a lot of information. It’s awesome to start seeing it paying off,” Stenhouse said. “They’re very, very integrated into our processes. I know they were struggling at the beginning of the year.”

Buescher said Ford Performance had been committed to his team from the beginning.

“They’ve gone through a lot of changes in the last little bit … but they made it very clear at the beginning of the season … that we’re out here to win a championship and to get wins and run up front. That’s the goal for every Ford out there on the race track.

“We’re working hard to utilize every resource available now and make sure that we take advantage of it; to make sure that we make the Chase because ultimately that’s a step in the direction of a championship.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, August 22 2016
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