By David Morgan, Associate Editor
To say that Chris Buescher has had an eventful season would be an understatement and on Sunday at Richmond, he added another chapter to the story, making a run at the win and finishing third in the Federated Auto Parts 400.
Starting the day in 18th after struggling in qualifying, Buescher’s No. 17 Roush Fenway Keselowski team worked overnight to put a game plan together for the race and their work paid off when the green flag flew on Sunday.
By the time the race reached the end of the second stage, Buescher had climbed into the top-10, but his move forward wasn’t finished yet.
Buescher slotted into second-place behind race leader and eventual winner Kevin Harvick inside of 50 laps to go, stalking the now 60-time Cup Series winner lap after lap as he looked for his chance to make a move for the lead in a bid to shake up the Playoff standings.
However, as Harvick and Buescher snaked their way through traffic, Harvick was able to increase his advantage over Buescher, with him falling some two seconds behind before Christopher Bell, who had fresher tires was able to take over second-place in his charge toward the lead. Buescher settled into third, where he would remain until the end of the race.
“Really close,” Buescher said. “Everyone on our Fastenal Mustang did such a tremendous job overnight because we didn’t know we were in this position yesterday. I didn’t qualify real well, and everyone worked hard and had a fantastic race car today.
“I think it’s a little easy with this format to feel like third place doesn’t matter, but it’s nice to be close and to keep progressing and getting better as we’ve gotten through the summer. Really neat to finish here. Really proud of everybody.
“Just burned the rear tires up. Ultimately that’s on me. Lap traffic didn’t do us any favors, either, but ultimately just got to keep the rears under us a little bit better so we can have a little bit better shot there to get after him for the win.”
Buescher added that even though the RFK Racing organization came out of the blocks slow to start the season, they have been hitting their stride as of late and Sunday’s finish is evidence of that.
“It took us a few months, but we’ve had three or maybe four months now of really solid runs, really good speed, ever since Dover really, that we’ve been really close,” Buescher said. “We’ve had some bad luck, had some mistakes that I’ve got to clean up. We’ve made progress through all of it.
“The results don’t always show it. We were running really well at the 600 and we ended up upside down. There’s no doubt in my mind we could have competed for a win at the Indy Road Course and we were on fire. We’re making highlight reels for all the wrong reasons. We’ve been fast in those processes, though. We just have to put it all together to show those results like we did here today.”
Two races remain for Buescher to make another push for the Playoffs, with a road course race at Watkins Glen next week, followed by the regular season finale at Daytona in two weeks’ time.
Buescher has been strong on both the road courses and superspeedways this season, so it is still conceivable that the No. 17 team could be a part of the Playoff field when all is said and done.
“I’m excited. I’m ready for the Glen,” Buescher said in closing as he looked ahead to next week’s race.