Rookie Chris Buescher gaining momentum
May 03, 2014, Holly Cain, NASCAR.com
TALLADEGA, Ala. – The raw excitement and joy of scoring his best career Nationwide Series finish in his first NASCAR start at the intimidating Talladega Superspeedway was evident on Chris Buescher’s face in the moments after he climbed out of his Ford Mustang on pit road.
His runner-up finish in a typically rowdy Talladega afternoon race made him the top finishing rookie for the first time this season.
And in a year with one of the most talented, highly-hyped rookie classes in recent memory, that’s saying something in and of itself.
"I compare (this racing) it to a carnival ride at the county fair, it’s absolutely wild," Buescher said, receiving congratulations from his crew, team owner Jack Roush and other drivers on pit road.
"It’s just an adrenaline rush and I’m still up on a high from it."
"If everything goes right you love this place and I’m a pretty big fan of it right now. Today we’re good with it."
While most of his fellow rookies suffered from the steep Talladega learning curve, Buescher was dicing it out with veterans such as Regan Smith, David Ragan and eventual winner Elliott Sadler all the way to the finish line.
As often happens here, Buescher was shuffled from the front to the back and all ways in between before climbing back into winning contention in the waning laps. His second place effort in the No. 60 Roush Performance Parts Mustang is his second consecutive top-10 (he was seventh at Richmond) and third on the year.
And after missing the season-opening race at Daytona -- his car’s owner points from 2013 driver Travis Pastrana went to his rookie Roush teammate Ryan Reed and he didn’t qualify on speed in the first ever knock-out group qualifying session at Daytona – the last couple weeks have been a confidence boost and sure sign of momentum.
"I think this will be really big for us," Buescher said. "Obviously when things happen that aren’t your fault, it’s hard on everybody and you sit and think about what could have been. With the beginning of the season and the way it played out, we’re not really in a points race, so we sat down after Darlington (April 11) and said, 'you know what, it’s time to go try and win some races.'
"And I think that mindset is gonna help us going forward."
His effort at Talladega was certainly a breakout moment on several levels. Points leader Chase Elliott, son of 1988 Cup champ Bill Elliott, has been the highest finishing rookie in all but a pair of the previous events – with Ty Dillon, grandson of Cup and Nationwide team owner Richard Childress, the leading first-year driver in the other two races.
Competing against high wattage names such as Elliott and Dillon, Buescher has instead quietly and effectively shown himself every bit as capable when not a victim of misfortune.
Buescher welcomes the competition and considers it a source of pride to be among this group of NASCAR newcomers.
"It’s one of the toughest years that I can think of going back," Buescher said of his rookie class, noting he’s raced against several of them for years.
"I’ve been around plenty and I know how they race and it’s good to be out here competing for rookie of the year with them. We’re giving it everything we’ve got. And we’ve got a little bit of ground to make up, but we’re not out of this thing by any means.
"A lot of it is momentum and the fact of knowing that we can do it.
"I don't know if I really want this off-weekend at this point, I want to keep it going. … anything we can take from here. Maybe just the fact that we have momentum on our side. We're capable of running this well."