Chris Buescher missed the NASCAR Playoffs in 2022 because he had not won a race prior to the cutoff point for the championship run. However, he made some noise after the ‘regular season’ had ended by scoring a win at the Bristol Motor Speedway and an additional four top-15 finishes during that final 10-race span.
Now, Buescher has emerged as a serious threat to make a deep Playoff run.
Making it as one of the sixteen drivers for a championship run is no longer a question considering that the No. 17 Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing Ford has now won consecutive races. It is important to recognize that those victories at Richmond and Michigan came on two very different types of tracks, and in both cases, came as a result of holding off drivers who had looked like potential winners.
Buescher addressed the diversity of his wins during his television post-race interview at Michigan.
“I mean, results will do it, right?” he said. “We’ve got work to do yet. That’s massive progress right there for us to do it at two vastly different racetracks. We got road races coming up. I’m excited for those, too. And Daytona. I look at the schedule we have ahead of us. This is a heck of a time to get turned on and get rolling.”
Even with that, why should a driver who has never before qualified for the NASCAR Playoffs suddenly be counted as a threat to make a deep run this time around?
With only three races left before the cutoff, Buescher has obviously gotten hot at the right time to be considered a threat. Further, that entire organization has improved to the point that it would have been likely for both of their drivers, Buescher and team co-owner Brad Keselowski, to have earned positions in the Playoffs without a win.
As far as Buescher is concerned, the 30-year-old driver has been remarkably consistent throughout 2023. In the 23 races held so far this season, he has finished outside the top-20 only two times. And his last poor result dates all the way back to April 2nd at Richmond where he ended up 30th.
The Prosper, Texas native’s average finishing position over the course of the season has been a solid 13th.
To illustrate the fact that his RFK team has gotten stronger throughout the season and that neither of his wins were flukes achieved by pit strategy or fuel mileage, Buescher led a total of 88 laps at Richmond and had to fend off a hard charging Denny Hamlin after a late race restart. He followed that up by leading 52 circuits at Michigan withstanding a run by arguably the strongest car in the race, Martin Truex Jr., to take the checkered flag.
Buescher talked about the organization’s progress in the MIS Media Center following Monday’s win.
“It’s not just me,” Buescher declared. “I think our group has come so far. I don’t think that after last week we ever, ever thought we would be one-and-done. Coming into this week, before where we’re sitting right now, we knew we had some really good races coming up for us before the Playoffs start. With this one, maybe not feeling quite as strong as some of the road courses and Daytona coming up even. That certainly sets well with us.”
He then added more thoughts as to why RFK is doing so well.
“I think it’s just a lot of things have come a long way,” he explained. “We are consistently much faster when we get to the racetrack every week. Brad finishing fourth today, both of us have been very competitive the last two weeks together, but also we’ve been competitive at different places through the year. Not always having the finish to show for it. That’s ultimately what most people would judge it off of.”
In terms of being able to advance beyond the first round once the Playoffs get underway, Buescher has a favorable schedule especially considering that he won the 2022 Bristol Night Race which serves as the final race of the first Playoff round.
“I think if you look at the Playoffs and the rounds, great racetracks for us that we’ve been very strong at. Bristol, we won it last year,” he pointed out. “Some road course racing. Talladega. I’m missing some here, but a lot of good racetracks for us that make us feel like we’re going to be able to make a run at this thing. I think that today really kind of helped set that in stone more for us. But I don’t think that we ever thought before today that that wasn’t the plan.”
Consistency has been the hallmark of the No. 17 team throughout the season until two weeks when that crew added winning to the mix. Those two elements added together will make Buescher a threat to make a deep Playoff run.
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