With only 17 ARCA Series starts under his belt, 18-year-old Chris Buescher received a phone call on Thursday (April 28) that he never expected. Roush Fenway Racing General Manager Robbie Reiser was on the other end, telling the development driver to grab his gear and head to the airport as soon as possible. Less than a day later, Buescher was standing in the Nationwide Series garage wearing a borrowed firesuit with Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s name on it, filling in for the ailing Trevor Bayne and preparing to make his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut.
Following Friday’s final practice – in which he ran 100 laps and was 11th fastest – Buescher talked with our own Jay W. Pennell about the unique set of circumstances that led to this point.
Jay W. Pennell, Frontstretch: When did you find out you were going to be in this car?
Chris Buescher: I found out yesterday morning (Thursday). Unfortunately, Trevor is sick; we wish the best for him and hope he can get back in this thing. It’s a great opportunity.
Sometime yesterday morning, I got a phone call saying I need to get to the airport as soon as possible with all my stuff. I thought I was in trouble, to be honest. I thought they were sending me back to Charlotte. They said we’re running the Nationwide race, so I got on a plane to Richmond and here we are. It’s going to be a lot of fun; glad to help the No. 16 out, glad to have a chance for Robbie (Reiser, team general manager) and Jack (Roush, team owner) to take the chance on me to come out here and do this.
Pennell: Did you have a planned schedule to transition into the Nationwide Series?
Buescher: We hadn’t even figured it out yet, to be honest with you. We weren’t that far. We planned on running some of the speedways in ARCA this year and trying to run the full schedule – we’re still going to run Salem tomorrow and Sunday. As of two days ago, this wasn’t even planned at all. It’s a little earlier than expected, but I’ll take it. I’m excited, a little nervous, but I think it’s a good car and we’ll run good.
Pennell: Have you talked to Trevor at all? Do you know what his condition is, how he is feeling, any updates there?
Buescher: I honestly haven’t talked to him. Chris Andrews (Nationwide Series crew chief) has talked to him, Steve Newmark has also talked to him. They say he’s just feeling under the weather. Obviously, they’re still running tests and trying to figure out what exactly it is, trying to be a little cautious.
Pennell: What are your goals or expectations for tonight’s race?
Buescher: Realistically, I’d like to run all 250 laps, hopefully be on the lead lap, hopefully run in the top 20. Anything better than that is just a plus. There isn’t really a lot of pressure. It’s not really something they’re expecting a big result out of. They’re trying to help get me seat time and keep the No. 16 in the points battle. We’ll go out there and we’ll have fun, do what we need to do and stay out of trouble and I think we’ll be able to run pretty decent.
Pennell: What does this do to your stock as a driver? Here you are, an 18-year-old ARCA guy that gets the call from Robbie Reiser to come up here, what does this do for your future?
Buescher: It’s pretty big; as long as tonight goes smooth, I think everything is going to be a step in the right direction. Obviously very excited to come do it, it’s a pretty big deal for me. I never dreamed it would come this fast and we’ll make the best of it.
Pennell: Is it almost easier that it happened this way?
Buescher: It almost is because you didn’t look forward to it and nervousness – when you get in the car you’ve got to go – so you aren’t so nervous leading up to it. I guess it did work better this way.
Pennell: What has been the biggest transition between the ARCA car and this car here?
Buescher: Definitely the front splitter. The cars are obviously more top-heavy, more sluggish I guess you could say, they’re coil-bound – which is new to me – and Richmond, I’ve never been to. So, it’s all new. We’re coming around to it pretty quick. Chris Andrews has been doing a good job coaching me and getting me loose. We’ve got Joel (Edmonds), Greg Biffle’s spotter, who’s going to spot for the race tonight. So, I think it’s going to be alright.
Pennell: You ran the most laps in practice today, what did you learn out there?
Buescher: I had to run as many (laps) as I could just to get used to it. It’s a completely different car than anything I’m used to. It’s tight in the center, I can tell you that, and it’s going to be tight in the center. If we can get around that and keep our good forward bite, get every corner solid I think we’ll be in good shape.
Friday night ended as a mission accomplished for the younger Buescher. Staying out of trouble, the No. 16 Ford came home in the top 20 (17th), a solid debut from an ARCA standout already well-known for his short-track prowess.
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