Chris Buescher makes name for himself with second-place Nationwide showing at Talladega

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When NASCAR fans hear the surname “Buescher,” it’s likely that most think of James, who won the 2012 Camping World Truck Series and who is currently eighth in this year’s Nationwide Series standings.

But after a career-best finish of second-place in Saturday’s Aaron’s 312 NNS race at Talladega Superspeedway, there’s another Buescher that fans should keep their eyes on: namely, Chris Buescher.

The younger cousin of James Buescher, Chris barely missed taking the checkered flag in Saturday’s race, finishing second to eventual winner Elliott Sadler.

“I’m still very new to this speedway racing, so to be able to pull off a second is really cool to me,” Buescher said. “Obviously, it’s a track that a lot of people will say there’s a lot of luck involved and I don’t doubt that one bit, but we worked very hard to go from eighth to last to back to second.”

Even though he was second, it was almost like a win for Buescher, who has had a mixed-bag of a season thus far in his rookie NNS season with Roush Fenway Racing.

In addition to Saturday being his first NNS career top-five and third third top-10 in 2014, he also has had his struggles, like 27th at Texas and a season-worst 34th at Darlington.

“Obviously, when things happen that aren’t your fault it’s hard on everybody and you sit and think about what could have been,” Buescher said. “With the beginning of the season and the way it played out, we’re not really in a points Chase, so we sat down after Darlington and said, ‘You know what, it’s time to go try and win some races.’ And I think that mindset is gonna help us going forward.”

Buescher came into Talladega after a prior career-best finish of seventh last week at Richmond. Now, with back-to-back new career bests, he can’t wait to see what he can do in the next NNS race in two weeks at Iowa Speedway.

A win perhaps for the native of Prosper, Texas?

“I think this will be really big for us.,” Buescher said. “We’ve been running in a position to be able to do this, we just haven’t been able to finish all of our races like this. It’s cool to be able to get that momentum and keep it rolling.”

While many fans point to cousin James’ success, Chris has also had his share of success. In the same season that James won the NCWTS championship (2012), Chris won the ARCA championship.

His finishes at Richmond and Talladega will definitely help his and the team’s confidence and motivation going forward, although he lamented that next weekend is an off-weekend until Iowa on March 18.

“I don’t know if I really want this off-weekend at this point,” he said. “I want to keep going, but Iowa is a really cool race track and anything we can take from here may just be the fact that we have momentum on our side.

“We’re capable of running this well. Richmond was some place that was halfway similar to Iowa, where you can take some notes and move them over. With our run there, I think we should be able to show up in Iowa and have a really solid run.”

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Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.