By Toby Christie, NASCAR Editor
It all comes down to this weekend for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rookie, Chris Buescher.
Buescher, who won at Pocono a month ago after the race was shortened by fog, is looking to make his way into the Chase for the Sprint Cup in his first season of trying. If Buescher does indeed make it into the championship field after 400 laps of racing Saturday night in Richmond, he will likely have to perform a little better than he did in Friday’s qualifying session.
Buescher wasn’t able to advance past the first round of qualifying for the Federated Auto Parts 400, and as a result he will roll from the grid in the 31st-position.
“That is not where we wanted to be in qualifying with our CSX Ford Fusion,” Buescher shrugged after qualifying.
While the driver of the No. 34 Ford Fusion struggled mightily in the session, David Ragan recorded a lap good enough for the 21st starting position for Saturday’s race. Buescher of course, enters the weekend with a 12-point cushion over Ragan for the ever-important 30th position in the point standings.
This essentially means when the green flag is displayed to start Saturday night’s race, Buescher will only have a two-point advantage over Ragan. If Buescher falls behind Ragan in the standings at the end of the race, Buescher will be bumped from championship contention. Despite the rough qualifying effort, and the elevated pressure of the weekend, Buescher still finds solace in how far his team has come over the second half of the season, and he definitely understands the big-picture of what’s at stake Saturday.
“We were a little better than we were last time here, so there is a little bit of positive to it, believe it or not,” said Buescher. “We will be able to work our way up. At the end of the day, this weekend is about something bigger. We are trying to stay out of trouble and be there at the end. It won’t be an easy walk from where we are at right now but we will be able to work our way up.”
Buescher’s Chase quest will be an interesting storyline to keep track of Saturday night. If recent performance is any indication, Buescher should have a great chance to advance to the Chase. Over the last five races, Buescher has a win and two top-five finishes. If the driver from Prosper, Texas can record a great finish at Richmond, he could be on the path to being the Cinderella Story of the 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup.