Chris Buescher opened some eyes in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway, as he went toe-to-toe with eventual race winner Kevin Harvick for the race lead for the majority of the final run of the race, before ultimately settling for a third-place finish.
After climbing from his No. 17 RFK Racing Ford Mustang, Buescher praised his team for the changes they made to his car after qualifying that put them in a position to contend on race day.
“Really close. Everyone on our Fastenal Mustang did such a tremendous job overnight because we did not know we were in this position yesterday,” Said Buescher, who started the race from 16th position. “Didn’t qualify real well. Everyone worked real hard and we had a fantastic race car today.”
With the way the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Grid has turned out, Buescher’s only path to securing a berth in the Playoffs is a win. But still, a third-place finish means a lot to the 29-year old driver.
“It’s a little easy with this format to say third place doesn’t matter, but it’s nice to be close and keep progressing and getting better as we’ve gotten through the Summer,” Buescher explained.
A quick check at his 2022 race results shows that Buescher isn’t fibbing. Over the last 13 races, the driver of the No. 17 car has recorded five top-10 finishes, including two runs inside the top-three.
But as Buescher notes, it’s not even truly fair to look at those results as the No. 17 team has had several good runs foiled along that stretch by bad luck.
“It’s not really fair to just look at results,” Buescher stated. “At the beginning of the year, we didn’t fire off as good as we thought. We didn’t have the improvement. It took us a few months, but we’ve had three — or maybe four — months now of really solid runs. Really, since Dover, that we’ve been really close.
“We’ve had some bad luck, had some mistakes, that I have to clean up. We’ve made progress through all of it, but the results don’t always show it. We were running really well at the [Coca-Cola] 600 and ended upside down. No doubt in my mind we could have competed for a win at the Indy Road Course and we’re on fire. We are making highlight reels for the wrong reasons.”
However, Buescher made the highlight reels for the right reasons Sunday at Richmond. And now, with momentum on his side, Buescher appears to be on the path toward a second-career NASCAR Cup Series win and that win very well could come before the Playoffs begin as he has a favorable set of races ahead of him at Watkins Glen and Daytona.
Buescher has a 6.25 average finish on road courses this season, and he has yet to finish outside the top-10 on one yet this year and that’s even with his car catching fire at Indianapolis. Needless to say, Buescher is licking his chops for next weekend’s race.
“I’m excited. I’m ready for The Glen,” Buescher said with confidence.
If he fails to win next weekend at Watkins Glen, Buescher still has a chance to lock himself into the Playoffs at Daytona — a Superspeedway, where anything can happen. Buescher’s RFK Racing team has been sporty at Superspeedways this season, and Buescher has seven-career top-10 finishes at that style of race track.
Anything can happen, and Buescher is coming to life at the right time.