Chris Buescher comes up short after dominating early at Homestead

Chris Buescher was on top of the world, at least in the lead, for part of the NASCAR Cup race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

After starting the day 12th, by lap 53 he found himself in a spot a bit rare for him, the lead of the race. HE would go on to lead a career best 57 laps, the second most of the race, and he won Stage 1 the second stage win of his career.

But on a day that had temperatures nearing 90, Buescher was part of a group of drivers who had the right set-up to run in the heat of a South Florida afternoon.

As day turned into night and the track cooled, Buescher seemed to lose any magic his Ford had in the daylight.

“It was a really good start for us, and I was really happy with the speed we had in the daylight,” Buescher said. “I think we knew this would be a pretty good test for what we were able to have made gains on during the off-season, and I think that showed that a lot of things we hit on and are headed in the right direction.

“With that, unfortunately the night did not do us a whole lot of favors, and dirty air was really rough on us there at the end. But we still learned a ton out of it.”

He added that somewhere along the way his Ford sustained some slight damage that might have contributed to him slowing down later in the race.

“It’s an excuse basically,” he said. “We’ve got to keep working at it hard, but I am really proud of everybody and everybody back at the shop. They did a really nice job on this race car. I think we made some awesome gains.

For a long time, the two cars art Roush-Fenway Racing haven’t been even noticeable towards the front of the field. That all changed Sunday with Buescher leading. His teammate Ryan Newman would finish seventh, and even though Buescher could only manage 19th, he feels the team is starting to turn a corner.

“Oh, I mean, it’s a step in the right direction for us,” he said. “You know, the finish is not something we’re real happy with right now, but it is good to see Ryan and the 6 guys be able to get a strong finish out of it. Really glad that we were able to run strong for a lot of the race.”

“The important part is it’s a long season, and with this being our first mile-and-a-half, we definitely have a lot of things that we learned from,” he said. “We’re definitely going to dissect this one very thoroughly and learn from it even more so that we can have more days like this going forward and then just finish them off on the tail end just as strong as we started today.”

One change the organization made in the off-season was appointing veteran crew chief Jimmy Fennig as vice president of competition. Buescher said that appointment was one of many changes at Roush-Fenway.

There’s a list of things that we’ve tried to do just to try and create a central person to really help guide our race team in general across all departments to work towards common goals,” he said. “Even so much as bringing back some old-school techniques just to really sit down and tear into what it is we feel like we’re looking and get input from not only Jimmy or the crew chiefs but the entire race shop and try and work to figure out what everyone knowledge is telling them.

“The vast majority of team members that are at our race shop have been working in racing their entire lives and they know what they’re doing, and they have insight into something that helped them through the years in some race car, and I think a lot of that has come together, trying to work hard to find that for us and really put together a lot of these small things so that we can have a better result at the end of the day.”

“I think everyone knows Jimmy as a very hard-headed racer that has a ton of respect throughout our entire organization, and I think that we believe in him. Jack believes in him,” he added. “I think we all wanted to help build Jack’s legacy and to keep building it. He’s been doing this a long time, a lot of races, and we’re just trying to get back to those days where we can be winning races through a year and contending for championships at the end of the season. There’s not one thing I can tell you, but many, many things that were happening each and every week through the off-season.”

Greg Engle