Chris Buescher was the surprising victor of Monday’s rain-delayed and fog and rain-shortened Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono.
Buescher, the 2015 Xfinity Series champion who is 31st in the Cup points standings, and his team took advantage of the race’s circumstances perfectly. As the race’s leaders and fastest cars pitted under green in anticipation of the race going the full distance, Buescher stayed out on track.
[Related: Quick takeaways from Pocono]
Fog slowly enveloped the track as Buescher led the race. And it got so thick that NASCAR was forced to put the race under caution and then a red flag because the backstretch wasn’t visible from the scoring booth and spotter’s stand. After a wait of nearly an hour under the red flag, NASCAR was forced to make the race official as thunderstorms approached with 138 of the 160 scheduled laps complete.
“This is gonna change our whole year right here, so this puts us in a good situation where we had a good day,” Buescher said. “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.
Buescher was able to stay out and not pit with the leaders thanks to some damage from earlier in the race to cause that flat tire. Buescher got a flat right-rear tire when the back of the pack stacked up after a restart and came to pit road to fix the damage and prevent it from causing more harm.
Since Buescher was good to go on fuel because of the more recent pit stop, his crew chief Bob Osborne kept him on the track in the hopes the race would get called. And it did.
The win is Buescher’s first in the Sprint Cup Series and Front Row Motorsports’ first win since David Ragan won at Talladega in 2013. But Buescher hasn’t exactly clinched a spot in the Chase with the win.
Drivers with a win qualify for the Chase … if they’re in the top 30 in the points standings. Buescher is not. He entered the race 41 points behind David Ragan for 30th place and he’s now six points behind Ragan. But Buescher didn’t pull away from Smith too much either. Smith is just nine points behind Buescher thanks to his third place finish.
Buescher has five races to work his way into the top 30 and make the Chase.
Brad Keselowski, who had pitted about 18 laps before the race was officially called, finished second. Regan Smith, on the same strategy as Buescher, finished third while Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart finished fourth and fifth.
– – – – – – –