Eight days after earning a career-best finish at the Brickyard, Chris Buescher opted to play the weather card in the closing stages to win Monday’s weather-shortened Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway.
After coming off a career-best 14th place finish at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the driver of the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford stayed out hoping for a late caution. He got his wish and scored the victory in the Pennsylvania 400.
“That’s pretty awesome,” Buescher said in victory lane. “Wild circumstances here at Pocono. This is gonna change our whole year right here, so this puts us in a good situation where we had a good day. It was a lot of fun. The guys really toughed it out. We got a flat tire, but we’re headed in the right direction now, so that will help in points. We got a win here, so we’ll take it any way we can get it.
“Yes, we’ve been definitely headed in the right direction,” he added on his team’s performance. “The last six or seven weeks have been really good for us. Kentucky was gonna be excellent for us, but is just didn’t play out. It’s pretty awesome to be here right now. I don’t know what to do right now. We don’t have any of the team here right now. The car is out on pit road. This is a little different way to celebrate.”
It’s his first career win in 27 Sprint Cup Series starts, first top-10 finish both of the season and at Pocono Raceway. He’s the first non-Penske Ford driver to win a race since Aric Almirola at Daytona in July of 2014, the first reigning NASCAR XFINITY Series champion to win a race in the Sprint Cup Series since Brad Keselowski in 2011, the first ARCA Series champion to win in the Sprint Cup Series since Benny Parsons and the first Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender to win a race since Joey Logano at New Hampshire in 2009.
He’s also the 80th different driver to win a race for Ford.
Keselowski led eight laps on his way to a runner-up finish in his No. 2 Team Penske Ford.
“Probably five more laps and I think we would have been in great shape, but that’s the way it goes,” Keselowski said. “We had really good speed on the green flag pit stop cycle, which got us in a position to take over the lead and hopefully control the race, but there’s nothing you can do about the fog rolling in.
“It’s been an interesting weekend here in Pocono. It’s been a lot of fun. I’m really proud of everybody on this Alliance Truck Parts Fusion team.”
He also took time to congratulate the race winner.
“I just told him (Chris Buescher) that if I couldn’t win it was cool to see him win,” he said in the media center. “I told him, ‘I can only imagine what’s going through your head right now.’ Just those kind of things. I think he was excited, but he’s kind of the humble, quiet, excited type of guy.”
It’s his 13th top-10 finish of 2016 and seventh in 14 starts at Pocono.
Regan Smith rounded out the podium in his No. 7 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet.
“It’s been a strange weekend really weather wise,” Smith said of the race. “There were times yesterday I thought we were going to get to race and the track had like a pond underneath it apparently. I’m just proud of Tommy (Baldwin) and then the guys on the box for kind of realizing there was opportunity for a strategy play there. We have had a decent run today. We were a lot better than we were last time here.”
It’s his second top-10 finish in 11 starts at Pocono.
Kevin Harvick led seven laps on his way to a fourth-place finish in his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet.
“Our Mobil 1 Chevy has been really fast,” Harvick said. “Obviously, we had one caution come out at the wrong time and the fog here at the end; I felt like we were in a pretty good spot running down to (Turn) 2 and here comes the fog. That’s kind of the way that things have gone this year. It seems like when we have a really fast car we just have some weird circumstances, and today would fall right into that category if they called it right now.”
Tony Stewart rounded out the top-five in his No. 14 SHR Chevrolet.
“Well, I’m pretty happy with it,” Stewart said. “I’m not sure. I think we can gain a couple of spots, but I’m not sure that we might not go back a couple spots. We might average out at the end. If we end up fifth I’m pretty happy with this today.”
Kyle Larson led 37 laps on his way to a sixth-place finish in his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Denny Hamlin finished seventh in his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
“My car was pretty fast,” Hamlin said of his Camry. “It’s fast by itself for a few laps and then we lose a little bit of speed, but I think we had a top-three or four car.”
Carl Edwards finished eighth in his No. 19 JGR Toyota. Kyle Busch led one lap on his way to a ninth-place finish in his No. 18 JGR Toyota. Kurt Busch, who dropped to the rear of the field at the start of the race for unapproved adjustments, rounded out the top-10 in his No. 41 SHR Chevrolet. He set a new NASCAR record of finishing all laps in the first 21 races of the season.
“It’s nice to be in position to have completed all the laps,” Busch said of the record. “That is done with a lot of team work. It’s not just one person. It starts at the shop with the quality of cars and congratulations to everybody that has helped be part of this sequence. All-in-all we are finishing on the lead lap, we are finishing top 10 every week. We just know that we need to find a little bit more to be competitive once the Chase starts. All-in-all I can’t say thank you enough to everybody on the No. 41 SHR car.”
Ryan Newman, who led one lap, finished 12th. Austin Dillon, who led three laps, finished 13th. AJ Allmendinger, who led one lap, finished 14th. Greg Biffle, who led 14 laps, finished 25th. Joey Logano, who led a race-high of 38 laps, finished 37th. Martin Truex Jr., who started on the pole and led 16 laps, was caught up in an early accident and eventually retired from the race in 38th.
Twenty-eight cars finished the race on the lead lap and 37 were running at the finish.
The race lasted two hours, 42 minutes and 15 seconds at an average speed of 127.581 mph. There were 19 lead changes among 11 different drivers and seven cautions for 31 laps.
Harvick leaves with a 22-point lead over Keselowski in the drivers points standings. Race winner Buescher leaves trailing the 30th-place Chase cutoff by six points.C1621_UNOFFRES