Buescher takes first career victory in fog-shortened race at Pocono


August 2, 2016

LONG POND, Pa.—Rookie-of-the-Year contender Chris Buescher took the victory at Pocono Raceway on Monday, his first career win in his 27th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start.
Buescher, who served a speeding penalty on lap 97, worked strategy to his advantage with the threat of weather looming around the track. As the leaders pitted, Buescher wheeled his No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford around the track in hopes that the race would end short.

Buescher got his wish when the caution flew for heavy fog on lap 132 that rolled in across the race track. The race would never restart, as just after 4 P.M. ET, the race was declared official with Buescher as the victor.

“I think it was relatively quiet, just trying to assess how bad the fog was,” Buescher said in reference to communication between he and crew chief Bob Osborne while leading under caution. “I was a little biased, and so from my eyes it was getting worse every lap, and in the spotter's eyes it was getting worse every lap.”


Buescher sits 31st in the standings, six points outside of the top-30 which is required, with a win, to qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup.


The Pennsylvania 400 was delayed from it’s original start time on Sunday after rain and weepers failed to cooperate with track-drying efforts. On Monday, it was rescheduled to start around 11:00 a.m. ET, but fog and mist hampered track drying events again.

The race eventually started at 12:10 p.m. ET and ran past halfway before the first weather related delay occurred during at lap 86. The race restarted shortly on lap 92, and ran until the fog rolled in with 29 laps to go.

THROUGH THE FIELD


Brad Keselowski finished second after playing different strategy throughout the event. On the final pit stop of the day, Keselowski brought his No. 2 Team Penske Ford in before many of the other competitors, taking advantage of fresh tires to get to the front of the leaders. Keselowski passed Regan Smith, who finished third, just before the race was brought to a halt for the final time.


“Great call by my crew chief Paul Wolfe in getting the strategy right and knowing that we had a lot of speed and maximizing that for certain situations,” Keselowski said. “We hit the green flag pit cycle perfectly to take advantage, and what was going to take the lead for us and hopefully give us the prime opportunity to win the race.

“Unfortunately that cloud came rolling in just kind of at the right or wrong time, however you want to look at it, to box us out, and we're going to end up finishing second today.

“We needed about three more laps on that cloud. It is what it is, though, so we'll take a second, I guess, and move on. But this is one of those what could have been races.”

For Smith, Sunday marked the Cato, New York native’s first top-five in the Sprint Cup Series since Talladega in October of 2012 and first top-five finish for Tommy Baldwin Racing since Talladega in October of 2011 with driver Dave Blaney.

“We were within five or six laps of having to pit, but it's a credit to my guys for seeing the opportunity to do that strategy,” Smith said.

“And when you're a small team working hard to try and go up against some of the bigger teams that we do, you've got to take the opportunities when they present themselves, and today, and this weekend in general, just kind of had that feeling to it with the rain on and off all weekend long, and we were able to make the most out of it, and it's something I'm proud of them for doing, and happy for [team owner] Tommy [Baldwin].”

Martin Truex Jr. started on the pole, but found bad luck early after a broken valve stem caused the No. 78 Furniture Row Toyota to hit the Turn 2 wall. Truex Jr. would hit the wall a few more times and wound up behind the wall, finishing 38th.


“Just blew a right front [tire],” he said. “A lug nut bounced off the ground, fell in behind the wheel behind a pit stop. It’s just bad luck honestly. I knew something wasn’t right in [Turns] 1 and 2 and I got real tight off of [Turn] 2 on that restart and went down the back and was like, ‘Ah, it feels okay.’

“And, as I got closer to the tunnel turn I felt it start to go down and by the time I let off and tried to slow down it was just going straight for the fence.”

Kevin Harvick, who finished fourth, maintains his point lead by 22 points over Keselowski. Next week, the series heads to Watkins Glen International for the Cheez-It 355 at the Glen.


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