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2016 Watkins Glen: NASCAR Sprint Cup - Saturday Notebook
Posted by: ASkyler on Aug 07, 2016 - 07:42 AM
Feature Articles
2016 Watkins Glen: NASCAR Sprint Cup - Saturday Notebook

By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

Chris Buescher confident he’ll make the Chase

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. - Chris Buescher is still on the outside looking in, but probably not for long.

After last Sunday’s unexpected NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory at Pocono Raceway, Buescher is still 31st in the standings, six points behind 30th-place David Ragan. In order to qualify for the Chase, Buescher must be in the top 30 after the 26th race of the season, scheduled for Sept. 10 at Richmond.

Buescher is confident he can meet the challenge.

"If we look at it now, we’re in good shape to be heading forward," Buescher said on Friday at Watkins Glen International, site of Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 (2:30 p.m. ET on USA). "Our cars have been a lot better each and every weekend. The last six or seven or eight weeks, we’ve been unloading with a lot better speed and finishing better and staying running better in the race.

"And when we look ahead, after this weekend we’re going to a lot of places for the second time finally, so we have a good notebook between (crew chief) Bob (Osborne) and myself. With our first year working together, we feel like we have better chemistry now and can pick up speed in the next five races leading up to the Chase."

For one thing, there are no more superspeedway races before the Chase starts. Buescher crashed out of all three restrictor-plate events this season, with his only other DNF coming at Kentucky.

Henceforth, Buescher also will get better equipment on a consistent basis from Roush Fenway Racing, which farmed him out to Front Row Motorsports for his rookie year in the Sprint Cup series.

"As we go forward, we have had pretty awesome support from Roush Fenway this year," Buescher said. "A lot of the races we have been kind of half-and-half on what we’re doing, but as we look at the Chase coming up here, I think we’ll be able to try to step up our program as much as possible.

"I know when we landed from Utah (where Buescher attended a refresher course on road racing earlier this week), our 34 team was still in the shop at 10:30 at night to make sure we had the best piece possible for the Glen this weekend. I know the team is working as hard as they possibly can to make sure we’re running better."

With that in mind, Buescher is optimistic about making the Chase.

"We’ll get there," he said.


Confident in making the final 12 during Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying session at Watkins Glen International - based on a strong showing in Friday’s practice - Martin Truex Jr. waited until late in the first round of knockout qualifying to make his only run.

The plan went awry, however, when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. entered the track at the bottom of the esses when Truex was approaching that series of snaking turns. In avoiding Stenhouse’s No. 17 Ford, Truex lost valuable time and failed to advance to the final round.

"There is nothing wrong with trying to do it in one run if people on the race track were paying attention to what’s going on," said Truex, who will start 14th in Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at the Glen. "You’ve got somebody that just pulled out of the pits and sees you coming… literally, I don’t understand what the 17 was thinking. He was just leaving pit road and he wasn’t in a hurry to get anywhere.

"It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense why he would’ve done what he did except for the fact that he just wasn’t paying attention. It’s a shame. We still almost made the second round. I don’t know what you can do about it. Our car is fabulous, and the guys have done a great job all weekend. Certainly hard to win from there, but it’s possible, and we won’t give up until the race is over."

Truex got his revenge. As he was rolling on his cool-down lap, he blocked Stenhouse’s progress, again in the esses, relegating the No. 17 to a 30th-place qualifying effort.

"We got in the way of the 78 there on his lap, thinking that he was done, and then so he in turn returned the favor, which I expected," Stenhouse said. "It’s nothing on him. We just did a bad job at qualifying there today."


Jeff Gordon thought he had a top-five car for qualifying on Saturday, but it didn’t work out that way. In his third race as a fill-in driver for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is sidelined with concussion-like symptoms, Gordon had to settle for the 21st starting position.

"I was pretty disappointed," Gordon said of his qualifying runs at the 2.45-mile Watkins Glen road course. "We were fast (in Friday’s practice). I felt like we were going to have no issues moving through to Round 2. I was more thinking about whether we could get in the top five. That’s not the way it went for our Axalta Chevrolet.

"The first run out I was a little conservative, just because I knew the grip level was down (thanks to overnight rain that washed rubber from the track). I just wanted to put a solid lap together and hit every corner. I got a little bit loose at the top of the esses. The second time out, I tried to attack a little bit more, and unfortunately, when I did that, I missed Turn 1 and my shift point, and that kind of just got us off the whole time."

Nevertheless, Gordon was optimistic about his prospects for Sunday’s Cheez-It 355.

"I like this race track," said Gordon, a four-time winner at the Glen. "I like the repave. The tire is a little tricky, but the team has done an excellent job and I’m having fun out there shifting and turning right and left…

"We’ve got our work cut out for us, but we’ve got a race car just like we have every weekend - so far I’ve been in the car - that can work its way forward."

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