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Will Tides Turn for Chris Buescher at the 2024 Coca-Cola 600?

Chris Buescher, driver of the #17 Fastenal Ford, looks on during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on April 20, 2024 in Talladega, Alabama.

Chris Buescher has been the talk of NASCAR’s town, and after two misfortunate races, he will look for success at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The 65th running of the Coca-Cola 600 will occur Memorial Day weekend on Sunday, May 26th. It will be the 14th points-paying event of the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season as only 13 races remain until the ten-race Playoffs. Television coverage will take place on FOX at 6:00 pm ET (3:00 pm PT). Radio coverage will be available on the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM’s NASCAR Radio.

Roush Fenway Keselowski (RFK) Racing’s Chris Buescher enters the race as one of 39 total entries. He hopes to best his competitors with unquestionable motivation ahead of NASCAR’s longest event.

The Closest Finish in Cup Series History

On May 5th, NASCAR headed Midwest for the AdventHealth400 from Kansas Speedway. Buescher entered with four straight finishes of 15th or worse; a skid that snapped four consecutive Top 10s from Phoenix Raceway to Richmond Raceway. The streak of poor finishes and few stage points saw the No. 17 enter Kansas only two points above the Playoff bubble.

A strong performance was evident early, methodically working his way through the field after starting 12th. Chris Buescher crossed the line 5th in Stage One and, after the Stage Two restart, found his way to 2nd with a sensational five-wide pass. Green flag pit stops saw Buescher climb to the race lead over Kyle Larson, taking the Stage Two checkered.

Fuel conservation played its part in the final stage. Denny Hamlin paced first over Buescher for much of the run as the two saved, but a hard-charging Martin Truex Jr. looked to be the driver to beat. A caution, however, fell with seven to go forcing final pit stops. Hamlin won the race out over Buescher, and the two led the field to a two-lap, overtime restart.

Larson, from 3rd, made it three-wide entering turn one. Buescher cleared for the lead and held charge until the final two corners, giving just enough room for Larson to peak his nose to the outside. The two, side-by-side, crossed the line in a near-dead heat.

Kyle Larson was ultimately scored the victor by 0.001 of a second over Chris Buescher. The finish became the closest finish in NASCAR Cup Series history (second in NASCAR history), overthrowing two results of 0.002 seconds: Ricky Craven’s thriller with Kurt Busch in the 2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 at Darlington Raceway, and Jimmie Johnson’s nailbiter over Clint Bowyer in the 2011 Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Buescher vs. Reddick

Disappointment was evident from Buescher, who was initially scored the Kansas winner. “I told everybody (that) I thought I was going to throw up on the way to the airport afterwards… this one is going to hurt for a really, really long time,” he told Dale Earnhardt Jr. on an episode of The Dale Jr. Download. “Some of our guys said, ‘Just don’t let it hurt any more than six days. Let’s just go to Darlington and win there,'” he added.

The following weekend on May 12th, Chris Buescher and team headed to Darlington Raceway for the Goodyear 400. Another good race looked to be ahead after qualifying 3rd.

A moderate run Stage One and Stage Two for Buescher saw a pair of 7th-place finishes. Opportunity for a win was absent until green flag pit stops, a caution, and another trip to the pits in the final stage. Buescher restarted 3rd with 33 to go behind a hard-battling Keselowski and Tyler Reddick. As the front runners banged doors, Buescher capitalized with a blistering three-wide pass to enter 1st with 29 to go.

Reddick reeled in race-leader Buescher, and with ten laps to go, the No. 45 dove to the inside of the No. 17 in turn three. Unfortunately, Reddick missed his mark making contact with and pinching Buescher into the wall. Both drivers were forced to pit with flat tires as Brad Keselowski went on to snap a 110-race winless streak.

After finishing 30th, Buescher shared his displeasure with Reddick on pit road. “We don’t have that sticker on our door right now… this means more. I need you to be better,” he frustratingly voiced to an apologetic Reddick.

“That’s two weeks in a row we had shots to win races. One, I’m going to live in my head forever on what I would’ve done different… this one here, I need someone else to be more mature about it,” he told Jamie Little on the FOX broadcast.

A Valiant All-Star Effort

Last weekend, NASCAR saw its one-million-dollar All-Star Race take place from the revitalized North Wilkesboro Speedway. It was the second straight year the exhibition event was held at the historic North Carolina venue. Although an off-weekend for collecting points, drivers and teams fight just as hard for their shot at receiving the monetary prize.

A 5th-place effort in Saturday’s “Pit Crew Challenge” saw Chris Buescher start up front for the event. Early pace saw a climb to 2nd place behind halfway leader Joey Logano. He would slide back to the 5th position for a large portion of the remainder of the event. Buescher would amount a late-race charge, and a slide-job around Kyle Larson on the final lap saw Buescher finish a respected 3rd. The result was his best-ever finish in an All-Star Race.

Prior Charlotte Memories

Chris Buescher has found moderate success at Charlotte. He has finished Top 10 in four of his last five Coca-Cola 600’s with his best being a 6th for JTG Daugherty Racing in 2019. Last year, he passed ultimate race victor Ryan Blaney to win Stage Two. Buescher’s most memorable result came in the 2022 running, but it was unfortunately for the wrong reason.

He had worked his way to a Top 15 running position throughout the caution-filled event. On Lap 346, a restart was followed by a spinning Daniel Suarez on the subsequent lap. As cars braked and scattered the front stretch, Buescher was turned off the nose of Harrison Burton’s car making contact with Suarez.

The impact between the two cars broke Buescher’s front-right tire, and after digging into the turf, the three-plus ton machine was sent into a violent series of barrel rolls. After four full rotations, the No. 17 Ford came to rest on its roof. After the AMR Safety Team flipped over the car, Buescher climbed out and escaped without injury.

Despite season concerns related to speed from Fords, Buescher looks to continue the manufacturer’s recent momentum. He enters Charlotte weekend 12th in overall points and 14th in the battle for the Playoffs (+15 to the cut). Last week, Buescher partook in the 2024 “Mission 600,” spending a day at Parris Island with the United States Marine Corps. He will race a special paint scheme in the Coca-Cola 600 honoring Major Troy Gilbert, a former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot who lost his life serving in 2006.

The former ARCA and Xfinity Champion will target his sixth career victory in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Will tides turn for Chris Buescher? Watch the 2024 Coca-Cola 600 from Charlotte Motor Speedway this Sunday, May 26th on FOX at 6:00pm ET (3:00pm PT). Tweet us @LWOSMotorsport. Stay tuned here at LWOS Motorsports for NASCAR news, results, updates, and more.


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