Chris Buescher returns, battles back for season-best second place at Sonoma

The last time Chris Buescher was seen on a race track, his car was upside down after a wild tumble in the frontstretch turf at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He missed last weekend’s inaugural Cup Series race at World Wide Technology Raceway because of COVID-19, but on Sunday turned in a whale of a comeback.

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Buescher wheeled the No. 17 RFK Racing Ford to a runner-up finish Sunday at Sonoma Raceway, giving chase to eventual first-time winner Daniel Suárez but coming home 3.849 seconds back at the finish. The result was bittersweet for the 29-year-old Texan — a too-close brush with his first win of the year, but also a posting of his first top-five run of the season.

Sean Gardner | Getty Images
Sean Gardner | Getty Images

“What a way to return and come back to the race track, but I didn’t get the job done there at the end,” said Buescher, who started third. “I feel like we should have had the win and I didn’t get it. We were close, just needed more. I needed to make it happen on that restart and I didn’t. But if we can keep getting cars like this then a win will come. It was an awesome run, and I should be happy, but I am disappointed to be that close and not get it.”

Buescher nearly had his season-best outcome derailed by a penalty in the closing laps of Stage 2 in the Toyota/Save Mart 350. Buescher drove to pit road for a stop, and his No. 17 crew was initially flagged for throwing equipment with an errant fuel can. That penalty would have cost him valuable track position, but competition officials rescinded the penalty after a video review.

That ruling gave Buescher third place at the end of Stage 2, adding eight points to his day’s total.

Buescher lost three spots in the Cup Series standings after sitting out last weekend with COVID-19. Sunday, he regained two positions to grab 22nd in the points in what’s been a topsy-turvy season. Buescher earned his first career pole position for last month’s race at Dover Motor Speedway, but had only three top-10 results before Sunday’s run at Sonoma.

The result gave him two top-three finishes in the Cup Series’ last three road-course races, a span that includes his third-place outcome last October at the Charlotte Roval.