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Buescher looks to break through for Ford

The Fords are searching for their first win of the season six races into the 2024 Cup Series campaign, and there is a big opportunity on Sunday (7 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) as the manufacturer looks to defend a Richmond Raceway victory with Chris Buescher.

Last year’s 400-lapper was a breakout moment for the Prosper, Texas, native as Buescher rattled off three wins in five races, including back-to-back victories at Richmond and Michigan before closing the 2023 regular season with a victory at Daytona.

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While Buescher referred to Richmond as a track he’s “despised” for most of his career, he returns to the 0.75-mile short track with positivity.

“Last year, I really enjoyed both races,” Buescher said in a Zoom teleconference. “And then being able to be so good there in the fall — not just our car but both of our race cars to the point where we felt like we’re battling each other for the win there through the final stage.”

Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing dominated the last time the Cup Series visited Richmond, leading 190 of the 400 laps as Buescher held off a hard-charging Denny Hamlin on a green-white-checkered restart to secure the victory.

The main takeaway coming out of the new short-track package’s debut at Phoenix was Toyota’s dominance throughout the majority of its roster, but when you look at the results, you’ll find both RFK Fords nestled inside the top five.

Some would say Buescher’s finishes have outperformed the overall speed, but the 31-year-old driver pushed back on such discussion.

“We were able to lead at (three) of the first five races, and the one we didn’t lead any laps at, we finished second in Phoenix, so when I look at that, our speed was certainly there,” Buescher said. “Try to look at the last two weeks. We didn’t qualify good in COTA and then obviously had to start at the back, put us way behind with no cautions to really find ourselves with much opportunity to work up. Our group did a great job on strategy to work our way up. We had a fast race car and were able to to pick them off, but realistically I would call COTA a good day for us running eighth. We did not have race-winning speed there.”

Richmond will mark a pivotal point of the season for both RFK and the entire Ford camp. While Buescher would like to defend his victory at the facility, he won’t push the panic button just yet if the race doesn’t go his way.

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“I wouldn’t say that one race will decide that. We realize what we’ve had on the year and still working to get a Ford in Victory Lane and that is certainly our goal this week,” Buescher said. “No one sits still in our sport, and everybody is going to be coming at us to try it and be better at Richmond. It will be a good measure on where we have a hold of this new package.”

Sunday will also mark a career milestone for Buescher as it will be his 300th start in the Cup Series. What could be an even better indication for the weekend ahead is that Buescher’s teammate Keselowski was the last Cup driver to win in their 300th start.

Until Buescher straps into his No. 17 Ford this weekend, the upcoming milestone only means one thing at the moment to him.

“That means to me is I’m getting old,” Buescher said. “It has snuck up on me quick. It feels like it wasn’t that long ago we were [in] our rookie season heading into Richmond as an [elimination] race before the playoffs, had won a race there [at] Pocono that year and didn’t have a stellar year. We’re doing all we could to finish in the top 30 in points to think to make sure that we could make the playoffs so certainly a long way removed from that. It’s been a long, long time coming but at the same time feels like that was just yesterday.”