Ford Performance NASCAR: Buescher and Bayne Talk Chase Chances


Ford Performance NSCS Notes and Quotes

Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race – Bristol Motor Speedway

Friday, August 19, 2016

Chris Buescher, driver of the No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford Fusion, comes into this weekend trailing David Ragan by three points for 30th-place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings. After his win at Pocono Raceway, Buescher needs to finish 30th or better to qualify for the Chase, which starts in five weeks at Chicagoland Speedway. Buescher visited the infield media center at Bristol Motor Speedway this morning to talk about his situation.

CHRIS BUESCHER – No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford Fusion – “I’m happy to be back in Bristol. It’s definitely one of my top three favorite tracks we come to, so I feel like this place we can definitely go have some fun and have a good run. We ran pretty decent here in the spring and just with, at the time we were on the bottom for a lot of the restarts and we didn’t want to be there, and I feel like we’re gonna be saying the exact opposite this time around.   It’s pretty interesting. I’ve been watching the Truck race and hearing about XFINITY practice, just trying to see where the track is heading with the new grip added. I know the trucks broke a track record. I don’t know if you put an asterisk next to the track record or not, but it’s pretty cool nonetheless. It’s cool to see Bristol back on the bottom and trying to recreate the bump-and-run style of racing that we’ve had here in the past. I’m looking forward to it. I think it’s gonna be a lot of fun. It’s definitely gonna be different and I don’t know that everything from the spring is gonna carry over. We’ll probably have to work on adjusting quite a bit with the track being green this morning since that little shower. We’ll see how it all plays out. I’m looking forward to it regardless. I’m excited to be here in Bristol. I love this race track. Regardless of whether we’re on the top or the bottom it’s a blast to come run at.”

IF IT TURNS INTO A BUMP-AND-RUN RACE DO YOU THINK TEMPERS WILL FLARE OR WILL IT BE AN ACCEPTED PRACTICE? “I’m sure you’ll be mad if you get pushed out of the groove, but I think if it’s on the bottom and that’s the way to pass, you better expect it. You can be upset about it, but pretty quickly everybody will realize that’s the only way they’re gonna get those spots back that they just lost and they’re gonna wind up on the other side dishing it out.   If that’s the way it goes, I think we should just fully expect it and be ready, and try not to let our feelings get hurt because it’s gonna be a tough race if it’s just on the bottom like that.   Watching the Truck race it looked like that second groove, even middle, wasn’t faster but it was usable, so I think there’s a good lane to recover if you do get pushed out and I think there’s a possibility of the top or the middle being able to actually pass on the bottom, especially when it gets jammed up down there.”

HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO ENJOY YOUR WIN? WHAT HAVE YOU DONE? “Lots of yard work. It was nice to have an off weekend and kind of take it easy. I went out to Texas to go see my family. I haven’t been with them in a while, so it’s nice to relax.   I say that, but I think I did more work out there than I do at my own place, but, honestly, I like to stay busy.   I went out in the garage and helped dad, washed all of my sisters cars, and basically they put me to work, but it was a good time. It was nice to change the pace up a little bit. It’s our last one of the year, so now we look at the rest of it and we’ve got some pretty awesome races coming up. Obviously, that win is special for being the first one, but with the Chase format and everything going on it’s extremely important that we go after it these next four. We look at these races – Bristol, Michigan we ran really well at as Fords, basically as a large group, and Darlington is my favorite race track, so we through in the curveball of Richmond, which I’m undecided on and we’ll go get those couple points and get in the Chase. Then we’ll be talking about a little bit different year.”

HAS THE PHONE BEEN RINGING WITH SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES SINCE THE WIN? “I hope so.   I don’t know. It would be awesome to be able to sell a little bit more. We have Love’s on board our Fusion this weekend and they’re pretty excited. We’ve got some cool stuff coming for Darlington, just for the throwback scheme.   We have a bunch of things happening that aren’t necessarily new, but we’ve had a great partnership with CSX and Love’s this year and they’ve really stepped up from what they’ve done previously, so we’re happy to have them on board and we’ll definitely be glad to be looking ahead and see if we can get a little bit more.”

YOU SAID LAST YEAR YOU HATE POINTS RACING, BUT IS THAT KIND OF WHAT YOU’RE DOING NOW TO TRY AND GET IN THE TOP 30? “I still hate points racing, but it is a little bit different this time around. It’s a place where we have to be a little bit aware of our situation and make sure that we’re not involved in anything we can avoid, but it’s also a time to be aggressive.   It’s time to go out there and get every point we can get every time we’re out on track, and from there we’ll just let it play itself out. At this point we’ve gotten ourselves in a little bit of a hole just from some speedway racing and a couple of other things and now we’re digging out of it. The only way to do that is to go out here and be competitive. I look at Bristol as probably one of our better race tracks this year for speed and for where we were running in the race, and this should be a place where we can gain a lot of those points. That being said, the guys that we’re racing also run really well here, so it’s gonna be a battle right up to the end of Richmond.”

ON MICHIGAN WITH THE SAME LOWER DOWNFORCE PACKAGE AS LAST TIME. “I’m glad we’re sticking with what we left Michigan with and not trying to change it up too much – not trying to throw too many curveballs, especially as we get closer to the Chase. I think a lot of teams will tell you that they don’t want to have to be guessing when they show up at the race track on a new rules package, so I think it’s good to have that consistency there. I think the race at Michigan was pretty good. It was wild and out of control, and I can’t tell you how many cars I saw slide from one groove up three, but it was an interesting race and a lot of fun.   We had good speed and I’m excited to go back to Michigan with the package they’re bringing. I think it’s gonna be good.”

MORE TIMING LINES HAVE BEEN ADDED AND SPEEDING PENALITIES ARE UP.   WHAT’S THE CHALLENGE ON PIT ROAD NOW WITH MORE OF THOSE BEING INSTALLED? “The timing lines, adding more is basically just keeping us at our pit road speed. The rule never changed. If our speed is 50 miles an hour it’s 50 miles an hour. Well, you have that gap in between lines, but now that we’ve split a lot of our segments in half it, for the most part, is gonna get rid of the speeding up, the passing. The way it was explained to me is it’s more of a safety thing. We don’t want cars coming down pit road two-wide trying to turn into their pit boxes and putting our crew guys in danger because guys are racing on pit road or trying to bang doors just to get to their pit stall. So from that aspect I think it’s mostly on the safety side. It’s fine with me. It’s not something that I had utilized very well up to this point, so it didn’t change a whole lot more me. I’m just trying to get to the point where I can ride as close as I can to pit road speed consistently and not speed. I still did a poor job of that at Pocono, so for myself I don’t think it’s gonna change much just because we haven’t been trying to maximize those segments. Now it’s just more of the same.”


IF YOU GET IN DO YOU FEEL LIKE THERE WILL BE MORE PRESSURE TO STAY IN THE TOP 30 OR IS THERE MORE NOW TRYING TO GET THERE? “Judging by last year, if we get in that top 30 and we’re trying not to lose it, it’s probably gonna be a little bit more stressful.   We had to go more on defense last year than we have to right now. Right now, we’ve got to get all we can get and be aggressive with it to gain points and that’s more fun racing. Last year, I remember talking to Ricky (Stenhouse) about his two championships on the XFINITY side and he did them both different ways. He did one chasing and one being ahead and he said he had a blast when he was trying to chase them down and got it that way, so, to me, that’s good news. That means we can go out here and we can race and we can have fun. We can enjoy these weekends and not be too worried about giving it up, just knowing that we’ve got to do everything we can do to run as well as possible. That’s not necessarily saying we’ve got to try and get ourselves in a fuel window and run out of gas and lose a bunch of spots. It’s saying we’ve got to be aggressive on track, take passes whenever we can get them, and make sure that we can drive forward so that we’re earning points versus losing them each of these next four weekends.”

CAN YOU EXPLAIN JUST HOW DIFFICULT IT IS TO GAIN THREE POINTS LIKE YOU NEED TO RIGHT NOW? “I think anyone will tell you that it’s not necessarily just three points either.   It’s gonna be constantly changing.   There are four drivers in this window that can basically upset the balance or change it each and every weekend.   For us right now, yeah, it’s three points to David Ragan but after Bristol it could be a completely different story. We could gain points on David, but get passed by the one behind us. It’s a balance, but we’ve got to take it week by week.   Kind of going back to the previous questions, we have to capitalize on our weekends as much as possible. That’s what is going to be important for us is to do the best we can and let everything else fall the way it’s going to.”

Trevor Bayne, driver of the No. 6 AdvoCare Ford Fusion, is returning to his home track and hoping to gain ground in the battle for one of the final Chase spots. Bayne, a native of Knoxville, TN, is eight points behind 15th-place Kyle Larson in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings and 38 behind 14th-place Jamie McMurray. He spoke to the media this morning at Bristol about this weekend’s race.

TREVOR BAYNE – No. 6 AdvoCare Ford Fusion – “This weekend there are a lot of unknowns. We’ve seen some practices and seen a race and we’re all trying to take it in as drivers. I know a lot of people are texting back-and-forth about the different things they think are gonna happen, but nobody really knows what’s gonna happen yet.   I definitely think in the Cup Series you have a lot more guys who enjoy running the top and will move up as practice goes on. We kind of saw that even at the last race. It all started on the bottom in practice, but by practice two and practice three the groove had moved to the top with only a couple guys attempting to run that middle to top in the Truck race you didn’t really have an opportunity for the track to rubber up, so I look forward to seeing if the race changes, if you have to adapt as a driver as the race goes on, if the bottom goes away with more laps without going out and scuffing the track or dragging the track, or whatever you want to call it, in between. So I do think you’re gonna have to be versatile, you’re gonna have to adapt this weekend, but one thing I feel really good about is the car we had here last time we came back with a fairly similar package this weekend. That car was really good on the top, but one of our strengths was actually being able to restart on the bottom and not lose ground.   So if the race does come down to where you have to make the bottom work, I think we’ve got a car potentially that can do that. I’ll let you know after practice, but in my head it sounds really good right now, so we’re just gonna see how practice goes. We know we’ve got to be nimble and be ready to react to whatever is going on here with all of the unknowns.”

CAN YOU REVISIT YOUR IRONMAN TRIP TO IRELAND? “Like I told you earlier I sold it to my wife as a vacation for the off weekend, so I probably didn’t do as well in my race as I could have had I just laid around the couch for like four days before.   Instead, we were up touring around and driving on the wrong side of the road, which was different for me. That’s the first time I’ve experienced that, so it’s a good thing I got the tire and wheel insurance on the rental car. The curbs didn’t like me too well there on the wrong side of the car, but we were driving around and really saw all of Ireland and even Northern Ireland, so that was really fun. But the trip really started for me when I got there to Sunday morning at 4 a.m., waking up and getting ready for that race which, by the way, I think the XFINITY race had just ended here. It was like 11 o’clock p.m. here, so that time change was a little different. I got up at 4 and started getting my nutrition going with my AdvoCare products and some breakfast, and got ready to go race my first half-Ironman – 70.3 – and it went really well. There are factors in other forms of racing too, so here we deal with rain and there we dealt with rain. It rained on the bike. You still get to ride during that portion, but something that caught my attention the day before that I never really thought about was when they started talking about cancelling the swim for jellyfish. So we’re going out into this harbor to swim in Ireland and they had this report that the beaches are closed for Lion’s main jellyfish, which are the largest and fifth-most venomous jellyfish in the world, so I was pretty thankful we were gonna have wetsuits on, but there are a lot of factors you don’t really think about when you’re going to do another form of racing. I didn’t get stung by a jellyfish. I got out of the water alive and pretty fast, and made it through the bike decent. The rain slowed us down a little bit and then got to the run and mile seven I started questioning myself. I was arguing with myself. ‘How was this a good idea for my off weekend? How in the world is this considered fun at all?’ But two days later I was already thinking about when I’m gonna do my next one, so you forget fast how bad things like that hurt when you’re pushing yourself, but it was really fun for me. It challenged me and I feel like that morning I woke up and Josh Wise had been training me for a long time and I was talking to him about it and you know that day that that’s probably the most fit you’ve ever been in your life when you go to do a race like that and you’ve tapered and you’ve trained with a lot of volume of workouts and riding, swimming and running.   A lot of guys are starting to do that around the garage here, so it’s fun to see, but that day was probably the most fit I’ve probably ever been in my life, so it was pretty cool to do that.”

IF THE BOTTOM LANE IS PREFERRED DOES THE BUMP-AND-RUN BECOME ACCEPTABLE? “It’s a tough thing. It’s a fine-line here. You’ve kind of seen it here on the top with the slide job. People do it and some people get mad. Somebody cuts them off or slides them up into the fence or whatever, but when you’re racing you’re racing and you’ve got to go for it. If that’s the only way to pass, it’s the only way to pass. Obviously, there’s a difference between a bump-and-run and a crash somebody.   That’s the line you’ve got to walk.   To me, if you’ve got to be on the bottom, somebody is holding you up and holding you up, and you run in there and you move them up a lane and get the position and run by them, that’s acceptable.   You go in and knock somebody from the bottom lane to the fourth lane, which doesn’t exist, and they’re in the fence, then that’s something you’ve got issues with and you can kind of tell the intent when you’re racing around somebody. Sometimes you deserve it if you hold somebody up for four or five laps and they’re kind of nudging you and finally they have enough and they move you, but we’ll just have to see how it works out. I’m hopeful that there are gonna be a couple lanes and you’ll be able to adapt and move around, but, if not, it’s gonna be the Bristol of old and drivers are just gonna have to check their feelings at the start-finish line when we go by for the first time.”

HOW DO YOU VIEW YOUR SITUATION RIGHT NOW? “With Tony Stewart and Chris Buescher having wins that obviously changes the landscape a lot for us, and then with Dale Jr. and the issues he’s going through it’s kind of evened out some of that for us in our point standings. Obviously, if he returned he could still be a factor, but for us right now we just have to get the most out of every weekend. It’s a lot like what Chris was saying. We’re in a very similar situation where we’re points racing, but you need a win. For us, I don’t know that points racing alone is gonna get us in. We basically have to beat two guys if you figure that Chris can get in the top 30, which is still gonna be a challenge for him as well.   They’ve run a full season and they’re back three points from 30th, so there is the potential that doesn’t happen, but we race as if he’s already in. For myself and my team we come to Bristol and say, ‘You know what? We need to win this race.’ We put the effort in and we go at it as if we’ve got to win and you’ve got to do it in a way where you’re not making mistakes. You don’t want to force something that isn’t there and cost yourself points. We still have a long season to go – 14 races – so these next four we race them a certain way and then we race the next 10 a certain way, but right now, for us, Matt will be aggressive in his calls and I’m gonna be aggressive in how I handle my business, but also cautious if you can at the same time – kind of like Watkins Glen.   I worked really hard to be better at road racing. I felt like that was an area I really struggled at this season at Sonoma, and I put in more time working on that than I’ve ever put into anything in racing.   Basically, I committed to six or seven weeks of my wife and I saying, ‘This is what we have to do. I’m not gonna be home for like three days in the next six weeks, and I’ve got to go work at this and get better at it,’ and the result showed for us. I was really thankful that the Lord honored that and we got a result out of it with a top 10, but we come to Bristol the same way. I put all the effort I can into this knowing that it’s really gonna count.   I’ll be aggressive. I don’t give up anything, kind of like Watkins Glen.   I didn’t feel like I let anybody run over me, but I also didn’t do dumb things and run off the race track and tear up my race car, burn the brakes off. I’ve got to do that here at Bristol this weekend. It’s no different than what we did at The Glen.”

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE PROGRESS YOU’VE MADE SINCE LAST YEAR AND WHAT’S THE ATTITUDE LIKE AT ROUSH FENWAY? DOES IT FEEL LIKE THE PROGRAMS ARE GETTING BACK TO WHERE YOU WANT THEM TO BE?   “Yeah, I mean we’re definitely not where we want to be because we’re not winning races yet, but where we are in contention, the fact that we’re contending and we’re in the discussion for a Chase spot on points says a lot about what my team has done this year.   Matt Puccia has been a great fit for me.   He’s a guy that has helped me keep my head and worked really hard together. He’s a guy that will put in the hours and I’m in that same boat, so I feel like we mesh really well together at the race shop. We discuss things. We have a lot of conversation leading into the race weekend. How we expect it to go and typically it goes that way.   Right down the line, Matt is a little superstitious so he didn’t like that I said it at the meeting on Tuesday at the race shop, but we haven’t had anything fall off our race cars. Our guys have done a great job of making sure the details are done, and that’s why we’re in this situation. We probably aren’t as fast as some of the guys we’re racing around for this spot in the Chase, but we’ve been consistent. We’ve made progress in that area. Myself, other than Indy, I don’t feel like I’ve made too many mistakes on the race track that has cost me points. Maybe there have been days where if I really had just nailed everything I could have gained two spots or three spots early in this season when we first started working together, so I feel like we’ve maximized every race and that’s why we’re here. So I’m really excited about that. I’d love to see more raw speed in our race cars and in myself when I unload for practice and get back to how we were early in this season when we were qualifying really well. We were making the final round almost every week and the last few weeks we’ve kind of fallen into that second round area and that makes racing a lot harder. I want to get back to that raw speed from early in the season and continue to execute like we’ve been doing. But I’m really impressed with what Roush Fenway has done.   It’s very tough in this sport to turn things around when you’re chasing a moving target, so they’ve done a great job.   All of the gains we’ve made are showing results and that’s what we want to see.”

HOW IMPORTANT IS MOMENTUM AND HOW WELL YOU DID IN THE FIRST RACE HERE AT BRISTOL? “It definitely gives us something to build on. When we came here the last time we left being in the Chase, I believe, so to be this much further into the season and still be in that same situation we’ve done a good job building off of that finish. For me, I’m not a guy who would tell you that a driver gets confidence all of a sudden and he goes out and starts winning races because his confidence is up. Your confidence is up because your team is doing something that you can be confident in, and that’s what we have going on this year. I can be confident in my guys because they’re doing their jobs well.   My guys can have confidence in what I’m trying to do on the race track because they know I’m putting the effort in.   So that momentum and that confidence comes from something that’s real. It’s not like you just say to yourself, ‘Oh, I’m gonna show up and be confident today,’ and you go faster. It’s just building and trusting and working together as a team. Like I said, I think that’s something we’re doing really well together and that’s what we can hope to continue to do these next four weeks and then see where we’re at and re-evaluate after that and see how we race the last 10.”

WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK GOING TO MICHIGAN NEXT WEEK AND HOW HAS IT BEEN BEING A DAD SO FAR? “Michigan was tough last time. Jimmie Johnson and I are good friends and we go ride our road bikes together and I think we did that weekend. I wiped him out there at one point, but the cars were just tough to handle around other people. You could drive in a foot too deep and the next thing you know you’re sliding around and that’s why you saw a lot of attrition there. Being in the situation we’re in, and Bristol will change the situation we’re in for good or for bad. We’ll know how we have to race Michigan, but it is a tough race where a lot of things can happen. It’s one of those places again where I bring up qualifying. We’ve got to qualify well there to run well there. It’s so tough to pass, so tough to get track position, but it does lend itself to being aggressive on strategy, so I feel like I’ve got one of the best guys on the box with Matt making those calls and getting me some track position, kind of like he did last weekend, so that’s kind of how you have to race Michigan. With that rules package it becomes even more of an issue and even tougher to race around other people.”

WHAT’S IT LIKE ON MONDAY IF THE BUMP-AND-RUN COMES BACK.   DO CALLS OR TEXTS TAKE PLACE BETWEEN DRIVERS TO WORK THINGS OUT? “To go back to his question, I have a daughter that I’ve got to answer to, so the way I handle my business is there are a lot of people looking at that and as I’m a dad now I kind of have to think about that. Getting out of the car and throwing your stuff and going up to somebody wanting to fight is probably not a good example for her as she gets older, but, for me, I like to talk through things. Even when my wife and I have a little argument or something I’m one of the guys that wants to talk it out and get it all out there, not have anything left inside that you’re thinking or feeling about this other guy, and carrying it week to week. I hate that mentality of, ‘Oh, I’ve got a checklist and I’m coming for you and I’m gonna check you off next week,’ because most of the time that doesn’t happen anyways.   People just like to talk about it so, for me, I’d rather air it out. If you have an issue, you talk about it, you get it behind you and you go on to the next race. We’re all here trying to do the same thing, but that doesn’t mean it’s no holds barred and you just go out and wreck everybody or get wrecked by everybody.   There’s also respect that you have to have for each other and what we’re trying to do here. I think everybody knows everybody’s situation for the Chase.   You know the guys that are in, you know the guys that are out, and you know the guys who don’t have a shot and you kind of pay attention to the way they race you and the way you race them.”

WE’VE SEEN A LOT OF GUYS WIN FOR THE FIRST TIME RECENTLY.   WHAT DOES THAT BRING BACK FOR YOU AND WHAT IS THE WEIGHT OF TRYING TO GET THAT SECOND WIN? “For every single one of those instances I couldn’t be more excited for those guys. Justin Marks is a friend of mine. Chris Buescher the same. I haven’t spent much time with Ben Kennedy, but just listening to his interviews and the humility he has and the way he’s going about it, I can really appreciate that, so I was really excited for him to get his win here – the same for Justin and the same for Chris – but you’re right, this sport is ‘what have you done for me today’ not even lately, it’s today, so those guys know that that win was great and they’ll celebrate it this week, but when they go to the race track next weekend you’ve got to go do it again. That’s a lot of pressure, but it’s what we’re here for. We want to win. We aren’t here to drive around in circles and collect a paycheck, we’re here to win races and that’s what those guys are doing. That’s what I’m here to do and it’s not about satisfying everybody else’s expectations it’s about satisfying your own and that’s why we do it.”


Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.