Race Weekend Central

NASCAR 101: Making Headlines

It was not that long ago when NASCAR had its Big 3. Every week, it seemed like Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick or Martin Truex Jr. would wind up in victory lane.

But those days are in the rear view mirror, as the Next Gen NASCAR Cup Series car has pretty much eliminated a driver’s ability to be purely dominant. Parity is the name of the game now, as we live in a world where Michael McDowell and Bubba Wallace can score more points than Chase Elliott and Daniel Suarez and steal their playoff spots. Imagine telling someone that three years ago.

In true NASCAR fashion, drivers can still rack up decent win totals and be the best driver for a short stretch. William Byron, for example, has five victories so far this season. However, incredible inconsistency has not helped him, or frankly any driver this year, be exclusively dominant. As Cup starts the playoffs this weekend, there simply is no clear championship favorite.

However, a new driver has joined the list after an impressive five-race span. Before the last few weeks, Chris Buescher was quietly having a season of mediocrity. In true Buescher fashion, no one really talked about him. Every week, he’d show up, grab a decent finish, not make any headlines and just simply go home like nothing even happened.

That was until Richmond Raceway five races ago, when the Texan turned in a shockingly dominant performance which netted him his third career victory. That win spurred another victory the next week at Michigan International Speedway, which turned into yet another one last weekend at Daytona International Speedway.

As the playoffs start this weekend, there is simply no hotter and more in-form driver on the circuit right now than Buescher. Some say he may even be the championship favorite. That says a lot for a guy we rarely ever talked about and for a team that has been rebuilding for more that a decade. And yet he is the unlikely man on top of the sport.

See also
Happy Hour: Just How Far in the Playoffs Does Bubba Wallace Go?

But how did he even get to this point?

The 30-year-old’s path to get here is incredible in and of itself. He only started racing at age 12, long after most of his counterparts did. Buescher’s early racing medium was legend cars, where his family quickly built a relationship with Cup competitors Ken and David Ragan.

Through that relationship with the Ragans, Buescher was given a spot in RFK Racing’s development program. It was not just driver development program, either. Buescher’s first stint in a national racing series was actually both as a driver and a mechanic for one of RFK’s satellite ARCA Menards Series teams in 2008.

Once again, in true Buescher fashion, he was neither flashy nor did he make headlines too often, but his multi-season tenure in ARCA was capped off by winning the 2011 championship. Firmly supplanting his place in RFK’s development program, Buescher was promoted to the Xfinity Series, where he did the exact same thing: He made few waves but his Xfinity stint with Roush was capped off by winning the 2015 championship.

Thus, he was promoted once again, this time to NASCAR’s highest level: the Cup Series. Campaigning a RFK satellite car at Front Row Motorsports, Buescher once again had a quiet tenure. Sticking with the theme, he finished his run with a surprising rain-shortened win at Pocono Raceway that also netted him his first career playoff berth and a runner-up finish in the Rookie of the Year standings.

After leaving the RFK umbrella for JTG Daugherty Racing for three years (which, you guessed it, was a time also defined by being neither flashy nor making headlines), Buescher returned home. This time, however, it was to the RFK mothership: the historic No. 17 Ford.

Lo and behold, the period since 2020 has been defined by a driver who started off quiet but has developed surprising greatness. His statement win at Bristol Motor Speedway last year was unexpected yet incredibly deserving.

See also
Dropping the Hammer: The Cup Playoff Fan Survival Guide

There are so many reasons to root for him. Buescher’s got a blue-collar mentality with a blue-collar sponsor in Fastenal. Off the track, he’s likable, humble and soft-spoken with a hidden dry wit. Throughout his career, he’s put in yeoman’s work that puts food on his table and championship trophies on shelves. And he does it all without polarity, politics or controversy.

Right now, with three wins and a championship potentially in sight, Buescher could be on verge of becoming a unifying blue-collar star akin to a Benny Parsons, Alan Kulwicki or Bill Elliott. He’s someone who has worked on racecars before he raced them, grinding it out and becoming one of the few RFK development drivers to actually ever make it out of the program.

There are a lot of good things happening for Buescher right now: a new baby, a committed and loyal new co-owner in Brad Keselowski and NASCAR fans who are starting to look his way.

As NASCAR’s newest championship threat, the world is Buescher’s oyster.

Oh, and he just made a headline.

About the author

Never at a loss for words, Zach Gillispie is a young, talented marketing professional from North Carolina who talks and writes on the side about his first love: racing! Since joining Frontstretch in 2018, Zach has served in numerous roles where he currently pens the NASCAR 101 column, a weekly piece delving into the basic nuts and bolts of the sport. Additionally, his unabashedly bold takes meshed with that trademarked dry wit of his have made Zach a fan favorite on the weekly Friday Faceoff panel. In his free time, he can be found in the great outdoors, actively involved in his church, cheering on his beloved Atlanta Braves or ruthlessly pestering his colleagues with completely useless statistics about Delma Cowart.

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“Firmly supplanting his place in RFK’s development program…”
To supplant means to supersede and replace. The proper word to have used is establishing.

Ronald Thornton

I believe that buescher is a very good driver.
How many guys have been given a ride and showed up the boss? Damn. They get the same equipment. Go Buescher. Prove these folks wrong that think they know it all. Nobody ever picked buescher to win any race he ever entered in cup. That is good for him because he never had to win. Just finish high. Now though, he has to win. We shall see if he is up to the task

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