August 13, 2022




ELKHART LAKE, WISCONSIN – JULY 03: Chris Buescher, driver of the #17 Fastenal Ford, cruises the grid before the NASCAR Cup Series Kwik Trip 250 at Road America on July 03, 2022 in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) | Getty Images

By Dustin Albino

PLYMOUTH, Wisc. – When Chris Buescher raced in the top five and finished second in Sonoma, it surprised many. But digging deeper into Buescher’s stats, he’s always been respectable on the road courses, earning his first Xfinity Series win at Mid-Ohio.

With the strong performance in Sonoma just three weeks ago, Buescher was confident heading into Sunday’s Kwik Trip 250 at Road America. His confidence increased after posting the sixth-fastest time in practice. Then he rose again after qualifying seventh.

Going into the race 127 points below the boundary line, Buescher knows he has to win one of the regular’s final nine races, including Road America. Because of this, his crew chief Scott Graves chose not to grab any stage points in either stage and to secure a track position at the start of Stages 2 and 3.

ELKHART LAKE, WISCONSIN – JULY 02: Chris Buescher, driver of the #17 Fifth Fastenal Ford, drives during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series Kwik Trip 250 at Road America on July 02, 2022 in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images) |  Getty Images
ELKHART LAKE, WISCONSIN – JULY 02: Chris Buescher, driver of the #17 Fifth Fastenal Ford, drives during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series Kwik Trip 250 at Road America on July 02, 2022 in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images) | Getty Images

During an unannounced final stage, Buescher raced to fifth place, but lost a top five finish by dropping position to Daniel Suarez in the closing laps.

Still, the sixth-place effort is Buescher’s fifth top 10 of the season, with his two best efforts on the road courses.

“[We] had some truck speed again, but we were looking for a little more than we got. But on the hunt,” Buescher said after the race. “We knew those last two positions were going to be the most difficult. I’m just proud to say that we were talking about and fighting for these because we had a bit of a slow start.

“It was nice to see the progression and to have speed in both of our race cars this weekend and racing together.

Buescher’s RFK Racing teammate Brad Keselowski finished 33rd and struggled with mechanical issues after going into the outside wall in the crease. Prior to this error, the No. 6 team also had a strong run, following its 10th-place finish in Sonoma.

Clearly, RFK Racing hit the setup on the road courses, with strong back-to-back races. That gives Buescher hope he can win one of the two remaining regular-season road courses — Indianapolis and Watkins Glen — to clinch a playoff berth.

“These are really big,” he said. “We’re going to have them surrounded.”

In May, Buescher tested Goodyear tires at Watkins Glen, with Martin Truex Jr. and William Byron. This was the beginning of the search for speed on road courses.

“I was able to do The Glen test and I was really confident,” added Buescher. “We had great speed. The Indy road course, let’s see how this one works. I don’t know if that was my favorite last time, but I still feel like with what we’ve learned, we’ll be competitive when we get there.

At Indy, there’s a chance Buescher will be without Graves as crew chief, as the #17 car lost a wheel last weekend in Nashville. However, RFK will file an appeal in hopes of overturning Graves’ four-race suspension.

With Tyler Reddick taking his first win at Road America, it bolsters Buescher’s case of having to win one of the final eight races of the regular season. Although he finished sixth, he lost points in the cutoff, now 143 markers behind.

Seeing a recent surge, Buescher thinks the team can win a race, while believing it is the most competitive field he has raced against at Cup level.

“There are a ton of fast race cars every week everywhere we go,” he said. “It’s tighter than ever. Competitive cars and competing for wins, there are many more than we have ever had. It is all the more difficult to obtain this last small piece.

The series heads south to Atlanta next weekend, to tackle the reconfigured mile and a half for the second time. In March, the #17 car finished seventh.