RICHMOND, Va. —
When Chris Buescher’s tire went down with 90 laps to go in Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400, there no was panic in the No. 34 camp.
Buescher came down pit road for four tires and hung on to easily qualify for his first Chase for the Sprint Cup in his rookie campaign. With David Ragan’s tire troubles on lap 295 and his mentor’s night cane to an end after a multi-car wreck with 36 laps to go, Buescher rode out the final 100 laps to give his Front Row Motorsports team a spot in the 2016 Chase grid.
The Pocono win may have seemed like a fluke, but the Front Row bunch put themselves into position to win the Pennsylvania 400, weather or not.
“It’s obviously a big night for Front Row Motorsports and Bob Jenkins for a small team like we are to be able to pull it off and get that win at Pocono and find ourselves in the Chase right now,” Buescher said. “It’s pretty special. It was a crazy race. I can’t believe how many cautions we had. We got involved in one of the accidents, had a tire go down, just a very eventful day. Just so proud to be here.”
When the checkered flag flew at Richmond Buescher finished the regular season 29th in points with his No. 34 team barely making it into the owner’s Chase by a mere two points ahead of teammate Landon Cassill’s No. 38 Ford.
“Now we talk a different strategy,’ Buescher said. “We get a lot of things changing now. Just really cool to be a part of it at this point. We look at this first round, and we want to make it past that round. We want to move through the Chase, and then we can reevaluate from there. If we can keep going farther and improve our program each and every weekend, that’s always going to be what we’re aiming to do.”
The difference between Buescher and the Roush-Fenway Racing stable was not one RFR car made this year’s Chase. Stenhouse scored a team-best runner-up finish at Bristol in August but came no closer to a win than the Irwin Tools Night Race. Trevor Bayne hovered around the playoff bubble all season and with stronger showings in 2016 just comes up short of putting Roush’s iconic No. 6 back in the Chase for the first time in 10 years.
“We tried, you have to go for it every way you can,” Bayne said after his Richmond run. “The cool box went out on like lap 20 so that was a long night of melting down inside the car. We had a fast race car but it didn’t play out strategy wise like we needed it to. I am really proud of my guys and the car they brought this weekend. It was a car that if it was put in the right situation could have won the race. We had a really good long run car tonight but it didn’t matter tonight because there were so many short runs it just killed us.”
Varied tire strategies took place during Saturday night’s race including Greg Biffle;s try to pit off-sequence with the leaders to make the Chase for the first time in two years. RFR’s lone wins in 2016 came in the first and second segments of the Sprint Showdown, but no other victories to show for during this season. The organization is riding a two-year winless streak dating back to Sonoma in June 2014.
Buescher’s Front Row effort is led by veteran crew chief Bob Osborne who guided Carl Edwards to five Chase appearances in seven years. So the playoffs are nothing new to Osborne with the rookie driver and defending XFINITY Series champ Buescher wheeling the No. 34 Ford for the two-car operation.
“I want to make it through the first round and then we will reevaluate from there,” Buescher said. “That needs to be our goal, to progress through the Chase through that first round and see where we can find ourselves after that.”
The 2016 Chase Grid is set and features two rookies in the 10-race playoff since the Chase’s inception in 2004. Buescher and Chase Elliott become the second and third rookies to break into the Chase as Richmond winner Denny Hamlin is the only other rookie to make the Chase in 2006.