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Did You Notice?: Chris Buescher Who? No Respect for 3-Time NASCAR Winner

Did You Notice? … Chris Buescher might be the sport’s most anonymous three-time NASCAR Cup Series winner of the modern era?

He couldn’t be ignored at Richmond Raceway Sunday (July 30), outlasting RFK Racing boss Brad Keselowski during the final stage to reach victory lane.

That clinched a playoff berth for Buescher, his first since 2016. It’s significant for a name that hasn’t ever been associated with title contention.

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That lone playoff appearance, his rookie season, is when Buescher delivered a career-best points finish (16th) after a rain-shortened race at Pocono Raceway brought a surprise upset with underfunded Front Row Motorsports. An easy Round of 16 TKO, he wouldn’t have come close to sniffing the top 20 in points without an automatic bid.

Since then, Buescher has won just one other time (Bristol Motor Speedway last fall) during a career that’s spanned 279 Cup starts. He has shown remarkable mid-pack consistency, finishing between 19th and 25th in the standings during each of his past six seasons in the sport. Until now, Buescher has been workmanlike in his performance, seemingly doing just enough to maintain a full-time Cup ride since moving up as the 2015 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion.

Mr. Dependable makes it easy for Buescher to blend in with the crowd. This fun video celebrating the Cook Out 400 victory felt like a perfect part of Buescher’s M.O.: walking around the garage without many fans even recognizing who he is. Would the cashier even know what Buescher looked like without the trophy?

Buescher’s “regular guy” anonymity translates over to Twitter (er, X): he ranks just 27th out of 33 full-time Cup drivers with just over 52,000 followers. That number trails NXS veterans like Justin Allgaier and even former NXS Roush teammate Trevor Bayne.

This tracks with Buescher’s often-forgettable reputation inside the garage. For years, I used to help edit an Athlon Sports yearly racing preview magazine. As part of the gig, other drivers and crewmen would offer anonymous scouting reports of their peers. Here’s what a few of them had to say about Buescher the past few years. …

2020: “Can he make a difference and get it done for Roush Fenway Racing?” a former driver says. “Uh, no.”

2021: “He doesn’t have a great personality,” says a rival crew chief, “And that’s a big part of our sport these days.”

2022: “There’s really nothing to say about him,” says another opposing crew chief, “because A) you never hear anything about him, and B) you never hear him say anything. That is almost a wasted seat and wasted opportunity. They had so much going on with Brad (Keselowski) that it was probably just easier to keep him, but this is probably his exit year from Roush.”

So much for exiting the scene. Instead, one year past a prediction gone wrong, it feels like Buescher is entering a whole new level of his Cup career. When someone doesn’t stand out popularity-wise these days, it can make it easy to forget just how much Buescher has accomplished.

Let’s just start with the wins alone. His victory total is more than AJ Allmendinger or Bubba Wallace, who each have two apiece. Wallace has fewer starts (205) but arguably has been given more opportunities with stronger equipment.

Buescher has now matched Aric Almirola’s win total (three) despite Almirola driving for one of the sport’s top-tier programs in Stewart-Haas Racing. It’s also the same as Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.’s three wins, all of which came at pack racing tracks (Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway). Even Ross Chastain, while he does have fewer starts (173), has earned the exact same number of wins as … Chris Buescher.

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Up to Speed: Ross Chastain Slumps as the Playoffs Approach

What makes Buescher’s track record unique is he’s had to earn it at two tracks (Richmond and Bristol) where raw speed, not drafting technique, determines the winner. In doing so, Buescher fought off challenges from some of NASCAR’s 75 Greatest Drivers: Denny Hamlin last Sunday and Chase Elliott last fall.

But because Buescher blends into the crowd, we don’t acknowledge those accomplishments the way we should. In 75 years of full-time Cup racing, only 113 drivers have won three races or more. It’s not a long list considering the timeframe.

Buescher’s Cup career, on paper, has also vaulted ahead of former prospects like Brian Vickers (three Cup wins in 323 career starts), Elliott Sadler (three-for-438) and Ricky Craven (two-for-278). And, at just 30 years old, it feels like there’s plenty of Cup career left to go here.

Perhaps a postseason appearance will finally put Buescher on the map with NASCAR’s fanbase. RFK is arguably the best-performing Ford team right now and has a decent chance to clear the Round of 16. Boasting an average finish of 13.5 this season, will late summer be the moment Buescher finally begins to earn some respect?

He certainly should have more than he does right now.

Did You Notice? … Quick hits before taking off …

  • There’s a lot of buzz over Carson Hocevar and Zane Smith getting promoted out of the Craftsman Truck Series next year. But what about the job Corey Heim has done for David Gilliland‘s program, TRICON Garage? He missed a race and still won the CTS regular season championship by over 50 points (51). I’d argue that might be Toyota’s hottest prospect long-term.
  • Entering 2023, the lowest laps led total Chase Elliott put up in any full-time Cup season of his career was 325 (2018). This year, he’s spent just 38 laps out front with only 14 races left to go. Compare that to teammate William Byron, who leads the series with 810 laps led, and then scratch your head over what the heck is going wrong with the No. 9 team these days.

Follow @NASCARBowles

About the author

The author of Did You Notice? (Wednesdays) Tom spends his time overseeing Frontstretch’s 40+ staff members as its majority owner and Editor-in-Chief. Based outside Philadelphia, Bowles is a two-time Emmy winner in NASCAR television and has worked in racing production with FOX, TNT, and ESPN while appearing on-air for SIRIUS XM Radio and FOX Sports 1's former show, the Crowd Goes Wild. He most recently consulted with SRX Racing, helping manage cutting-edge technology and graphics that appeared on their CBS broadcasts during 2021 and 2022.

You can find Tom’s writing here, at CBSSports.com and Athlonsports.com, where he’s been an editorial consultant for the annual racing magazine for 15 years.

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kb

Hmmm, nothing against the guy…however that headline “stat” of just 113 drivers to win 3 races, OMG if I was Chris, would not wanting you to write an article about me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WTF???????

Dawg

When people start talking about a driver having “a great, or not so great personality.” That’s the tail wagging the dog.

Cory Lajoie, has a great personality, & a killer podcast. But when the rubber meets the road, when the helmet is on, & the belts pulled tight. None of that matters.

What does matter, for Chris, is that he’s coming through for his team, & manufacturer, & flying under the radar isn’t all bad. Social media fans are nice, but they’re not going to help win races.
Followers might have some effect on sponsorship but wins trump followers.

Both of his last wins have come when Brad was leading & seemingly headed to victory, when he encountered a problem. A flat tire, & a rare mistake on pit road.

Like Underdog, Chris was there to save the day.

Bill B

I have to say that my overall view of Buescher is positive. He races clean and he gets decent finishes when he has a good car, however I can’t say that I ever pay attention to him until he’s running in the top 10. When he has a good car he knows what to do with it.
I actually like that he keeps a low key and doesn’t seek out attention. Too many younger people just want to “go viral” on social media, so I can respect the fact that maybe he doesn’t. In fact, this article just may have raised the needle for him on my “fan meter”.

Bill B

Oh yeah… What with this, Tom?.. “and then scratch your head over what the heck is going wrong with the No. 9 team these days”.

I’d expect that question from someone that doesn’t follow the sport closely. You know he was hurt and missed a bunch of races, you know how hard it is to get momentum back in this sport when everyone has been moving forward and you’ve been sitting on the sidelines,,, ever hear of Occam’s Razor?

Echo

Getting older or too much smoke in the air at Glacier today, but you made me look it up, again. Good one đź‘Ť

sdelfin

That 2022 comment sure is something. When Buescher went back to Roush, the public statements were along the lines of fixing a mistake in letting him go in the first place. It was more than just the basic PR stuff. I think the driver swap of Buescher and Stenhouse ended up working out for both guys anyway. Then when Brad got in there, his public statements were also way beyond just basic PR lines which gave me the indication that Brad thought highly of what Buescher brought as a driver. I never got any impression RFK actually intended to cut Buescher loose. Brad’s praise for Buescher has been such that I always got the sense that he intends to build around him long term. And it sounds like the move by Haley going over to Rick Ware, which operates within the Roush shop, may also be a bit of long-term planning.

Echo

Chris wouldn’t be there if Brad didn’t think highly of him. Brad is determined to have a winning team.