How Chris Buescher lost in heartbreaking fashion yet again

Chris Buescher has been the nearly man in NASCAR in May 2024 as he saw Brad Keselowski take victory in Darlington

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In Chris Buescher‘s ideal world, he would be riding a two-race win streak entering Sunday’s NASCAR All-Star Race. In the real world, he is sitting outside the top 10 in points and has yet to clinch a spot in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

After surviving a disastrous start to the 2024 season for Ford as a whole as the marque failed to win a single race in any of the three NASCAR national divisions, Buescher put himself in prime position to end that drought in the closing laps of both rounds to start the month of May.

Having lost the AdventHealth 400 at Kansas Speedway in the closest finish in NASCAR history, another chance to redeem himself came in last Sunday’s Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway when he took the lead with thirty laps remaining, overtaking his RFK Racing boss Brad Keselowski and Tyler Reddick in a dramatic three-abreast move along the frontstretch.

Reddick chased him down over the next twenty laps before making his move on Lap 283. Unfortunately for both of them, it ended in disaster as Reddick slid up the banking and squeezed Buescher into the wall. The contact resulted in damage to both cars and Keselowski slipped by both to take the lead, pulling away for the win.

Buescher was relegated to 30th while Reddick was 32nd. On pit road, he confronted Reddick by shoving him then getting in his face, to which the latter apologised.

“It’s got to come back around at some point,” Buescher commented. “You try and be decent about it. We had clean racing all day long and to get flat-out fenced like that there’s no excuse. It’s a poor decision and an immature move. I just don’t get it.”

“I completely understand where he is coming from,” Reddick explained. “He was running the top, running his own race, running his own line to keep me at bay. I made a really aggressive move and was hoping I was going to clear him.

“When I realised I wasn’t going to, I tried to check up to not slide up into him, but I wish I wouldn’t have done that. I completely understand why he is that mad. He did nothing wrong.

“Just trying to win the race, and to take myself out I can live with that, but just disappointed it played out the way that it did, and I took him out of the race as well. That was not the goal there. If I was going to go for it, I was hoping I was going to clear him.

“If I hit the wall, pop a tyre, I take myself out, I can live with that. It’s tough to walk away knowing I used someone up, and took away their chance of winning the race, that has raced me really cleanly since he came in the Cup Series. Just have to work on that and try to make some better decisions going forward.”

Keselowski stands up for Buescher

Even if it basically fell into his lap, Keselowski obviously had every reason to be happy about scoring his first victory as a team owner and snap a three-year winless streak dating back to the 2021 GEICO 500 at Talladega. Making the win all the sweeter, he got to do it in a tribute livery to Castrol’s All Japan Grand Touring Car Championship/Super GT Toyota Supra from the 1990s.

But he knew his win was going to be overshadowed by his employee’s recent stretch of disappointment and the clash with Reddick. Despite Buescher’s struggles, his boss is not worried about him one bit.

Brad Keselowski celebrates victory at the 2024 Goodyear 400 | NASCAR
Brad Keselowski celebrates victory at the 2024 Goodyear 400 | NASCAR

Chris has his style, and it’s worked really, really well for him. I don’t think Chris needs to change a darn thing about what he does,” Keselowski explained.

“It might not have worked out, but there’s other days where it works for him and makes him what he is. It makes him special. It makes him good. I hate that he didn’t get the result out of it.

“I know he had some damage on the car, and that was holding him back a little bit, so he wasn’t able to drive away like you would assume a leader would do in a situation like that.

“But I thought he did a great job of putting himself in position, and to not get a result, I’m sure it’s hard to stomach, and it should be hard to stomach, that’s what you want out of your driver. You want him to be upset when he doesn’t win.

Chris isn’t sitting in front of me now, but I would tell him just keep being Chris, keep doing what you do.”

A long time development driver of RFK co-owner Jack Roush, Buescher returned to the organisation in 2020. After relatively modest results in his first two Cup seasons with the team, his career took a major step forward once Keselowski joined the operation in 2022, winning at Bristol for Roush‘s first triumph since 2017.

Buescher‘s breakout came the following season with wins at Richmond, Michigan, and Daytona en route to a career-best seventh place points finish.

The 2024 Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway | NASCAR

While his 2024 is not going as planned, Keselowski still has full faith in his driver. Buescher‘s contract was originally set to expire at the end of the year before the ownership signed him to an extension.

“I think that Chris has done an excellent job at putting himself in position to win races and catching the good breaks that go with it,” Keselowski continued. “I thought last year when he won Michigan, it was a perfect example of just that. He put himself in a great spot, just dug hard, didn’t have the fastest car and won the race. That’s amazing.

“He’s been able to make things happen. He’s in a good spot personally and professionally. Good age, good experience level. He’s surrounded by some really good people. He’s significantly underrated.

“I don’t know why nobody else tried to steal him from us. When we re-signed him last year, I thought for sure somebody else was going to make a run at him, and to my knowledge they never did.

“I don’t know why nobody else sees in him what I see in him, which is a guy that’s a winner that you put in the right situation can be a multiple-time not just race winner but champion with the right equipment.

“He doesn’t get that credit and respect. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because he’s so humble. But I’ve been happy to see him be successful. I’ve never really spent a lot of time looking in the mirror comparing our success.”

Justin Nguyen
Justin Nguyen is Total-Motorsport.com's resident NASCAR aficionado and is also the off-road reporter for The Checkered Flag.
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