By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 17 team began the day with optimism, but it initially ended with a crushing runner-up finish by Chris Buescher.
Nearly two hours later, their entire day went under as Buescher’s team was disqualified for an illegal track bar mounting assembly as specified in Rule 126.96.36.199.b REAR SUB-FRAME ASSEMBLY; I-4 Track Bar Mounting Assembly
“The track bar mounting assembly must conform to the following drawing: FRAME-TRACK BAR MOUNTING ASSEMBLY A-002-01171D-19 REV. A”
Thus, Buescher will be credited with a 40th place result for Saturday’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Bubba Wallace was promoted to second-place for a career-equal.
Prior to the disqualification, Buescher was a spot away from snatching the 16th and final playoff spot from Tyler Reddick.
More so, when Buescher led the field to green in overtime. Only to lose out on his first Cup win since the fog-shortened 2016 Pennsylvania 400 while Ryan Blaney went on to score his third win of the year.
A key factor to Bueshcer’s loss was Corey LaJoie pushing Blaney to the point right away. From there, it was a struggle to regain the lead and when the big one struck on the last lap, Blaney was well ahead. The caution would come out and sealed Reddick, who overcame a late-race crash, the final playoff spot via points.
“(Blaney) was out by himself and we had a little momentum. I don’t know if we had any help behind us, though. I don’t think we did,” Bueshcer on the overtime restart.
“Maybe there’s some kind of attack there at the end, but it’s not even worth speculating because ultimately that’s a safety thing. We had a big crash and the caution had to come out, so I won’t even think about that one.”
Buescher agonizingly realized he was this close of putting RFR back in victory lane. Instead, the team’s drought dating back to Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.’s 2017 Daytona 400-miler triumph continues.
“It hurts, honestly,” said Buescher, who led eight laps. “I guess at the end of the day on one side I’m glad to see another Ford in victory lane, but it hurts that it wasn’t us.
“It hurts to get this close and not quite make it and to be sitting here right at the moment. We got a good fire on the restart, but our lane didn’t materialize near as well.”
Prior to the race-extended 165 laps, Buescher’s primary sponsor Fifth Third Bank agreed on a five-year extension with RFR.
In an era where sponsorship commitments are hard to come by, Buescher knew a strong run was key. He was able to accomplish that, but a third Cup win for the sponsor since joining RFR in 2012 will have to wait.
“It was a pretty awesome day. We’re proud to get them a solid finish here,” Buescher on his sponsor before the DQ. “We were in a must-win and we knew it. We got so close and it stinks.”
Since NASCAR have been implementing disqualifications in 2019, three previous drivers were severely penalized. Those being Erik Jones (Richmond II ’19), Jimmie Johnson (2020 Coca-Cola 600) and Chase Elliott (Nashville ’21).