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Chris Buescher Is on a Familiar Path

2024 Cup COTA Chris Buescher (Credit: NKP)

Chris Buescher may have been more stunned than anyone Sunday night (May 5) at Kansas Speedway.

He had just climbed out of his No. 17 after a close finish with Kyle Larson.

In fact, close is selling the finish short – Larson edged out Buescher by 0.001 seconds, the closest finish in NASCAR Cup Series history. The official timing and scoring initially indicated that Buescher won, and it was only the photo finish camera at the start/finish line that decided the race in Larson’s favor.

Even then, Buescher was understandably speechless.

“I haven’t seen a replay other than just a picture,” Buescher said. “I sure can’t see it in that picture. That sucks to be that close. I still can’t see (it).”

“Speed’s good, wins are better,” Buescher added. “Need to be in that situation again. Need some trophies, need some checkered flags and (to) put ourselves in a much better spot.”

No doubt that Buescher is feeling the pressure to win.

With the regular season nearly half over, he is in a tight battle to qualify for the playoffs. Thanks to his second-place run, Buescher now finds himself 11th in overall points and 13th on the playoff grid with two top fives and six top 10s. He is 33 points above the cut line, aided by a win in stage two on Sunday that allowed him to bank his first playoff point of the season. Of course, a victory would have all but guaranteed him a spot in the postseason. Locking up a playoff berth will have to wait for another time.

Yet even without the win, the No. 17 team has a silver lining.

Buescher is following the same path he did to reach the playoffs last year. He officially punched his ticket with a win at Richmond Raceway in August, but even before that, Buscher was right in the thick of the playoff battle. After the 12th race of 2023, also at Kansas, Buescher was 14th on the playoff grid, 47 points above the cut line. He had two top fives and four top 10s. The only thing missing, besides a win, was enough speed to lead laps outside of drafting tracks. Other than 32 laps led in the Daytona 500 and five at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Buescher had only led one lap at the time, which came at Circuit of the Americas.

For most of the summer, the No. 17 continued to chase the speed it needed to win races. Buescher was fast again in the return trip to Atlanta, but Richmond was the clear turning point. He started the afternoon in 26th and drove to the front of the field at a track…

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