By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Correspondent
After capitalizing on the misfortunes of others, Chris Buescher earned a top-10 finish in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Atlanta Motor Speedway. With a version of the 2019 aerodynamic package on display, teams appeared to be racing closer together.
Under the final caution of the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, Buescher’s No. 37 Scott Comfort Plus Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was one of several taking the wave around. He was inside the top-10 prior to a race-changing incident on pit road involving his JTG-Daugherty Racing teammate Ryan Preece. On the restart, Buescher lined up just outside the top-10.
Over the final 40 laps, Buescher battled with Daniel Suarez and Ryan Newman, among others. He went three and four-wide in the laps after the race went back green. Buescher climbed to 11th as several in the top-five pitted for tire issues. Picking off several positions from Ryan Blaney, Daniel Hemric, and Joey Logano, he moved into the top-10, taking the checkered in ninth.
“I knew that 24th best finish stat and that was disappointing to me, Buescher admitted. “I knew we were going to better it today about after the first stage. Everybody on this Scott Comfort Plus Camaro ZL1 did a great job. This group worked hard. We made big swings to get up there and to start 30th and be able to get a top 10 out of this thing, I’m proud of them. That was fun.
“That helped get us out of that hole or start to dig us out of that hole we got in with The Big One at Daytona. Just puts everyone in a good mood and Ryan (Preece) was running good too and I’m not exactly sure what happened, but I know something a little bit out of his control. I think this is a sign of good things to come. We’ve got some more work to do, but heck of a start.”
The ability to pass with this package was evident. Buescher’s Chevrolet started deep in the field, in 30th. He was one of several, including Kevin Harvick and Logano that worked their way into the top-10 after poor qualifying efforts.
Buescher believed that he and his JTG-Daugherty team will be able to apply much of what they learned at Atlanta to the upcoming race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA.
“Maybe not so much Vegas, that is a smoother, higher grip race track, but you look at Fontana surface, very similar to this, bigger track, but there is something to be said about the bumps what we did to combat that, what we were doing about clean air. It was definitely something we will apply towards Fontana, a little bit towards Vegas.”
The ninth-place finish is just the ninth top-10 of Buescher’s career, and first of 2019. He is now 24th in the Championship Points standings, 54 behind points leader Denny Hamlin. Buescher is just 13 markers behind Jimmie Johnson and the cutoff for the Playoffs.