ThatsRacin

With 16-driver Chase in his sights, NASCAR rookie Chris Buescher over first-win celebration

Chris Buescher sits on pit wall waiting to be declared the winner of Monday’s rain-shortened NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway.
Chris Buescher sits on pit wall waiting to be declared the winner of Monday’s rain-shortened NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway. AP

A few hours had passed since a potentially career-defining moment for Chris Buescher. Where did that leave him?

In the infield of Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, scrubbing toilet paper off the exterior of his motor home.

That’s what happens when you’ve just won for the first time on NASCAR’s Cup circuit, as Buescher did on Monday, and you’ve got friends (or well-meaning pranksters) who want to put their own stamp on the celebration.

So when Buescher returned to his motor home in the Pocono infield, he discovered it had been covered in toilet paper, a situation that required his immediate attention, especially after a persistent rain had lacquered the paper onto the vehicle.

From that moment until Sunday – when rookie Buescher will drive in the Cheez-It 355 At The Glen at Watkins Glen International (N.Y.) – life has been pretty much a blur.

After cleaning his motor home, Buescher got a few hours sleep before flying Tuesday to Utah, where he attended a road-course school for two days in preparation for Sunday’s Watkins Glen race.

I don’t think it has (sunk in) yet because of how busy we have stayed. I haven’t really had time to just relax and settle in yet.

Chris Buescher

Before coming to Watkins Glen, Buescher spent most of the following two days on the phone doing interviews, another necessary by-product of winning for the first time.

“It is a good problem to have,” said Buescher. “I killed my phone battery twice in one day, which is a new record for me.”

Buescher, 23, has had little time to reflect on what happened at Pocono, a rain-shortened race he won after crew chief Bob Osborne gambled by not bringing Buescher to pit road during a fog-induced caution.

“I don’t think it has (sunk in) yet because of how busy we have stayed,” Buescher said Friday at Watkins Glen. “I haven’t really had time to just relax and settle in yet. I haven’t really gotten to go see any of my friends that would usually be talking about it or pumped up about it. It has been one outing to the next.”

But this much Buescher knows: The victory moves him squarely into contention of qualifying for the 16-driver Chase. He now must finish in the top 30 in the points standings to make it (he is currently 31st, six points behind David Ragan.

Buescher’s victory has moved him into contention for a berth in the Chase, but he must finish in the top 30 in the standings.

Buescher’s victory has imperiled the Chase chances of two of the Cup’s more highly touted rookies – Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney, neither of whom have won. Elliott is 13th in the standings, but drops to 15th with the recent victories by Buescher (assuming he cracks the top 30) and Tony Stewart (who has moved up to 27th). Blaney’s situation is even more shaky. He’s fallen to 18th after being inside the top 16 (15th) as recently as early July.

Buescher’s points situation might be better if he hadn’t struggled at both of NASCAR’s restrictor-plate tracks, crashing out of Daytona twice and at Talladega.

“I absolutely think we can get into the top 30,” said Buescher, who won last season’s Xfinity Series championship. “We really shouldn’t have been out of it. We have been through our fair share of bad luck this year and that is why we have to talk about making it into the top 30.”

Buescher spent an agonizing hour from the time the Pocono race was red-flagged because of fog until the race was called because of a a major storm approaching. Several drivers – and perhaps future toilet-paper drapers – offered congratulations before the call came.

6 Number of points that Buescher trails 30th-place David Ragan by

“I wasn’t getting my hopes up just sitting out in the fog,” said Buescher. “There was no rain and the track was dry, and they all kept saying, ‘We are done.’ They seemed to know better than I did.

“I did realize once they called it that half the guys were changed into street clothes.”

Among those with well-wishes was veteran Carl Edwards.

“I thought that was really neat,” said Edwards, who teamed with Osborne to win 19 races from 2004-12. “I talked to Bob last weekend a little bit. I’m really happy for Bob, really happy for Chris. He’s an amazing driver. Bob made a specific point four or five months ago. He said, ‘Chris is so good, people don’t realize how good this kid is.’ ”

  Comments