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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Max Verstappen shows speed in Austria; Lewis Hamilton lacking pace

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SPIELBERG, Austria — Red Bull driver Max Verstappen posted the fastest time Friday, and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton lacked pace in the second practice session for the Styrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen was 0.043 seconds quicker than Valtteri Bottas – Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes – and 0.217 ahead of Racing Point driver Sergio Perez.

“The car already feels better than last week, the balance is a lot nicer and we have made a good step,” said Verstappen, who did not finish last Sunday’s season-opening Austrian GP after starting from second.

“It is too early to say how we are looking against Mercedes, but we are quite happy. We have tried a few different directions to understand the car a bit more and we are heading the right way.”

Hamilton was only sixth fastest, about 0.7 seconds slower than Verstappen. Hamilton spent a chunk of time in the garage while his team worked on his car.

“It was quite far off, so there’s a lot of work to do in the background to figure it out,” he said. “Others out there are quick and Valtteri’s obviously got good pace.”

Despite adding a new front wing to its car, struggling Ferrari had a dismal afternoon.

Charles Leclerc was only ninth quickest and 1 second slower than Verstappen, while teammate Sebastian Vettel lagged about 2 seconds behind Verstappen in 16th.

Daniel Ricciardo lost control of his Renault car early into the second session, swerving left off the track and thudding backward into a protective tire wall. He climbed out unharmed, other than a slight limp, but the left rear tire was mangled and the car was lifted off the track by a crane.

Alexander Albon spun twice, the Red Bull driver’s second spin taking him right off the track and into gravel.

Earlier, Perez was fastest in the first practice ahead of Verstappen and Bottas, with Hamilton fourth quickest and Vettel only 10th in sunny conditions.

That session was briefly interrupted when Nicholas Latifi’s Williams car pulled over to the side with a gearbox issue.

The incident brought out yellow flags, forcing drivers to slow down. But McLaren driver Lando Norris overtook Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri and got a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

Norris, 20, finished third at the Austrian GP last weekend, becoming the youngest British driver in F1 history to get on the podium and third youngest in F1.

The upcoming race is changing names from last week but is at the same track. It is surrounded by the Styrian mountains.

A third and final practice will be held on Saturday morning before qualifying in the afternoon, with heavy rain and storms in the forecast.

If third practice and qualifying are washed out, drivers take their grid positions from where they placed in second practice.

“It would definitely suck if we didn’t get to qualify,” said Hamilton, who started fifth and finished fourth last weekend. “It would make it challenging.”

However, qualifying also could be moved to Sunday morning.

“I don’t expect to be on pole position with this (practice) lap,” Verstappen said.