Think back 13 years to Greg Biffle’s rookie year in 2003, then known as the Winston Cup Series. Having already earned a truck series championship in 2000 and a Busch Series (XFINITY) championship in 2002, it was surprising to see how bad he stunk up the show. Crashes, equipment malfunctions, and even a DNQ at Las Vegas seemed to be the norm despite earning three top-fives and six top-10s on the way to 20th-place finish in points, along with a Rookie of the Year runner-up spot to Jamie McMurray.
But despite all that, Biffle did manage to score a strategy-based win at Daytona in July. Unlike McMurray, Biffle actually scored a win during his rookie year and was the only rookie to do so that season. Now come back to the present, where 2015 XFINITY Series champion and Roush-Fenway Racing-backed Chris Buescher is now a Sprint Cup race winner, thanks to his strategy-based upset in the weather-shortened Pennsylvania 400 Monday at Pocono.
Look at the 2016 class. Despite Ryan Blaney’s quiet consistency and Chase Elliott’s impressive results, it was Buescher who took the first checkered flag for this season’s rookie class. Maybe it isn’t enough to base anything off of considering how his season has fared (five lead-lap finishes in 21 starts, previous season-high of 14th at Indy), but don’t let that take anything away from Buescher’s success. Like Biffle, Buescher is not only a former Roush champion but is also a quietly consistent driver who manages to get the most out of his equipment without tearing it up or making too many mistakes.
Also, look at Front Row Motorsports as well. As a RFR satellite team, it’s a given that the No. 34 seat is serving as a placeholder, at least until a seat opens up at Roush. Although they’re not an organization with an abundance of funds, they still provide their drivers with solid, sound equipment that they can work with. FRM is a consistent organization that makes the most with what it has, be it crew or equipment, and as a result can be built around newer drivers like Buescher and Landon Cassill, who drives the No. 38.
A team like that which continues to grow and become a stronger organization could eventually become the next Furniture Row Racing. And with drivers like Buescher who continue to learn and grow and consistently bring the car home in one piece, they could become a contending group as the years go on. Remember, in Biffle’s sophomore season of ’04, he had his struggles yet he won twice, both times with a stronger car. By 2005, he led the series that season in wins (six) and earned a runner-up points finish to Tony Stewart.
Given time, Buescher will grow as a driver, be it with FRM or RFR. Either way, he’ll post more results as he matures, and he will be a Sprint Cup winner again. It’s too early to gauge when he’ll become an actual Cup title contender, but that day could very well come.