LONG POND, Pa. — Ever since Chris Buescher made his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut in 2015, he’s upped the ante every year.
Through 13 races in 2019, Buescher is working on his best overall season yet, posting three top 10s and consistently running in the top 20.
This Sunday, the 14th race meets career highs with positive vibes, as Buescher returns to Pocono Raceway for the Pocono 400, the very place he won his first and only Cup race.
“I’m definitely proud of our effort. This is the most competitive I’ve ever been in my Cup career,” Buescher said Saturday after qualifying. “We’ve had some terrific runs this season. We’ve had some days with awesome runs and nothing to show for. So, that’s frustrating. Sometimes, we’re just lacking a little bit on the final execution. In the grand scheme of things, we’ve had a really good year.”
Buescher, who will start 24th Sunday, has a 19.2 average finish with the summer around the bend, which is a full two positions better than the past two seasons.
He’s also coming off back-to-back top 10s for the first time in his career (10th at Kansas and sixth at Charlotte). His other top 10 is a ninth at Atlanta in the second race of the season.
Other solid runs include top-10 runs and Bristol and Richmond, but late race slip-ups resulted in two 22nd-place finishes. He also started just outside the top 10 at Auto Club (14th), but couldn’t find another level of speed.
“It’s been cool to see [our progress],” Buescher said. “We’re proud to be where we’re at. We have to keep digging. We have a little bit more to go.”
“[We’re] trying to find a certain feel that’s working for us this season,” he added. “Honing in on something more precise than what we’ve been looking for in the past, I think that’s helped. Our team’s done a great job of putting a competitive car on the race track. That definitely makes it easier.”
Outside of the seven prominent organizations, (Joe Gibbs Racing, Penske, Hendrick, Stewart-Haas, Chip Ganassi, Roush Fenway, and Richard Childress), Buescher is second amongst the drivers racing for NASCAR’s equivalent of “mid-majors.” Paul Menard, who drivers for Wood Brothers’ only entry, is 20th in points while Buescher is 22nd.
Given JTG Daugherty’s resources, Buescher will more than likely have to win a race to make the playoffs, but he has the talent to do so. He’s a proven winner at every level, capturing championships in ARCA (2012) and the Xfinity Series (2015).
“I want to get another [win] here and be able to celebrate in the actual Victory Lane and not have a tornado warning,” said Buescher, laughing while referring to his rain-shortened Cup win in 2016. “It was really cool to get our first Cup win in our rookie season. We always want more.”