DARLINGTON, S.C. – Tropical storm Hermine made sure Chris Buescher’s path to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup will be just a bit more difficult.
In qualifying for the last five races, Buescher has advanced to the second round four times and to the third round once, posting an average starting position of 20.4. But at Darlington Racing this weekend, Buescher didn’t have a chance to qualifying, thanks to the storm that washed out all track activity on Friday.
Accordingly, with the starting order set by owner points, Buescher will take the green flag from 31st place in Sunday night’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 (6 p.m. ET on NBC)—right beside David Ragan, the driver he’s trying to beat for the 30th position in the regular-season standings.
If Buescher is 30th or better after the Sept. 10 race at Richmond, he make the Chase. If he’s 31st or worse in the driver standings, his Chase spot will go to someone else. With two races left before the cutoff, Buescher leads Ragan by seven points for the all-important 30th spot.
On a track fraught with peril, starting that deep in the field is certain to raise Buescher’s stress level.
“Definitely, Darlington being one of the tougher race tracks we go to, that makes us a little bit anxious to get out there and get rolling this weekend,” Buescher said. “Nature has not helped us by any means. Without qualifying right, it’s going to put us starting a lot further back than what we’ve been able to qualify the last several months, so that’s a little bit of a bummer there.
“But, on the other hand, Darlington is my favorite race track we go to. I absolutely love that race track. I had a lot of fun there on the XFINITY side, and I’ve gotten my fair share of stripes already, so maybe I’m done with that and we can keep it clean this weekend.”
This will be the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at Darlington for the driver of the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford, who is competing for Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors this season. In four XFINITY Series races, Buescher has an average finish of 17.0, with his best result of fifth coming in last year’s championship season.