Buescher Wins First Cup Race
By: Jeff Wackerlin - @JWackerlin Twitter and Instagram | MRN.com on August 1, 2016 | 4:09 P.M. EST
Buescher became the third driver to get their first win at Pocono, joining Denny Hamlin (June 2006) and Jeremy Mayfield (June 1998). (Photo: Getty Images)
Chris Buescher scored his first career Sprint Cup Series win in Monday's rain-delayed Pennsylvania 400 when the race was called due to fog and an approaching storm on lap 138.
The reigning XFINITY Series champion last pitted on lap 107 and was out front when the fog rolled in over the track from the Turn 1 side.
"Bob (Osborne) 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," Buescher said. "The weather got here just when we needed it to.
The win will put Buescher in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup if he can make the top 30 in the standings. Currently, he sits 31st - six points behind David Ragan, who finished 32nd.
"We're in a good spot, and we can definitely make up those six points," Buescher said. "We're going to try and get a lot more than that and be ready when the Chase does start to make sure we can advance as it goes through."
The race was called after a 1 hour, 20 minute red flag where the cars ended up being covered up on pit road because of weather in the area.
"That was stressful," Buesher said about the wait. "I was trying not to get my hopes up because I know how these things can play out. Mother Nature can be really nice sometimes or can be really mean. If the sun would have come out it would have changed our whole day."
Buescher was out of sequence in pit strategy because he cut down a left-rear while trying to avoid an accident. He also battled back for a pit road speeding penalty while exiting the pits on lap 94 and received the free pass on lap 107.
"Really proud of my team getting that damage fixed on our Dockside Logistics Ford," Buescher said, "making sure we were in a good place to get the strategy and make it work out. All the other guys that were on a similar strategy hit pit road right before we did and they made the call up on the box to pull it off."
The victory was the second for Front Row Motorsports, first winning at Talladega Superspeedway in 2013 with Ragan.
Brad Keselowski, who led two times for eight laps, finished second.
"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."
Regan Smith, who also had yet to pit, finished third for his first top five since 2012.
"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," Smith said. "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."
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart rounded out the top five.
Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Kurt Busch completed the top 10.
Joey Logano led a race-high 38 laps, but was forced to the garage on lap 106 when Chase Elliott got together with him while racing through Turn 2.
"He just got loose underneath me and up we went," said Logano, who finished 37th. "Things happen, it's part of hard racing. It kind of sucks to be on this end of it. It's just part of it. We had a very fast Shell-Pennzoil Ford and we showed that today."
Elliott finished 33rd and is 14th the Chase Grid, 45 points to the good - even with finishes outside the top 10 in the last six races of the season.
"I thought I slowed enough and obviously I didn't," Elliott said. "I apologize to those guys and definitely my guys too. I hate to get in a bad spot. I haven’t been doing a very good job of putting ourselves in good positions these past few weeks."
The Sprint Cup Series now heads to Watkins Glen International for Sunday's Cheez-It 355.
How Buescher Won: After battling back from a pit road speeding penalty and the team fixing damage to his No. 34 Ford, Buescher was in the right place at the right time when fog approached Pocono. He last pitted on lap 107 when others pitted on lap 122 or later and the decision was made to say out with weather approaching. When the race was called, Buescher became the third drier to get their first win at the 2.5-mile track, joining Denny Hamlin (June 2006) and Jeremy Mayfield (June 1998).
Who Else Had a Good Day: Along with the stats noted above, Smith tied the career-best finish for Tommy Baldwin Racing...Keselowski's runner-up finish was his third top-three finish in the last three races at Pocono...Harvick came from the 17th position to score his ninth top five of the season...Tony Stewart has now finished in the top five in four of the last six races this season...Larson led 37 laps and remains 15th in points and 16th in the Chase Grid (Read More)...Kurt Busch, who had to start at the rear of the field for an unapproved body adjustment, set a new record for most consecutive races finishing on the lead lap to start a season.
Who Had a Bad Day: Pole winner Martin Truex Jr. blew a right-front tire on lap 19 and hit the wall in Turn 2. Driving the car he dominated Charlotte with, Truex had two more issues with the damage in the race and was ultimately forced to the garage on lap 100. His 38th-place finish was his worst of the season...Paul Menard, who started third - best since Talladega in 2014 - was forced to the garage early for repairs with transmission issues (finished 35th). It was Menard's first Sprint Cup race with crew chief Danny Stockman...Chase Elliott got together with Joey Logano, who led 38 laps, on lap 106 in the Tunnel Turn while battling for eighth and both drivers were forced to the garage with damage. (Read More)
What Else Happened: Larson and Austin Dillon, who finished 13th, had a good battle going for the lead and the two made contact in Turn 3 and Logano got by for the top spot on lap 81...The race was delayed one hour from the original postponement Monday start time of 11 a.m. (ET) for track drying.
Quote of the Day: "We've got a road course school that we're trying to figure out how to be better at Watkins Glen now, so there's no time to celebrate, unfortunately." - Chris Buescher
Notables: Jeff Gordon, who had a seatbelt malfunction in the race and had to come in to fix it, finished 27th in his second start in the No. 88 Chevrolet...Kasey Kahne was the top finishing Hendrick Motorsports driver in 15th...Larson spent the least amount of time on pit road in the race after pitting four times...The race featured 19 lead changes among 11 drivers.
Next MRN Broadcast
Upcoming Cup Broadcasts
- Truex More Comfortable at Martinsville
- New Digital Platform to Feature Racing in Virginia
- Opinion: I Was Just Thinking ...
- NASCAR Notebook: No Atlanta Repave ... for Now
- Power Rankings After Auto Club
- Auto Club Checkered and Black Flags
- Auto Club Rear-View Mirror
- Big Comeback for Keselowski