How the Pocono Cinderella story almost didn't happen

A hectic mid-race restart almost ended Chris Buescher's day before he could even make a grab at the win.

How the Pocono Cinderella story almost didn't happen
Winner Chris Buescher, Front Row Motorsports Ford
Chris Buescher, Front Row Motorsports Ford
Winner Chris Buescher, Front Row Motorsports Ford, Bob Osborne, crew chief
Bob Osborne, crew chief for Chris Buescher
Chris Buescher, Front Row Motorsports Ford
Chris Buescher, Front Row Motorsports Ford
Chris Buescher, Front Row Motorsports Ford
Chris Buescher, Front Row Motorsports Ford
Chris Buescher, Front Row Motorsports Ford
Chris Buescher, Front Row Motorsports Ford
Chris Buescher, Front Row Motorsports Ford

Just past the halfway point of the race, several cars checked up in the middle of the pack. Buescher dove to the bottom to avoid the chaos and cut down a tire on a rough section of asphalt notorious for sending cars into the air.

"Basically getting into Turn 2, it was after a restart or pretty close, and basically a couple guys in front of us got crossed up getting into 2 and out of shape, and I tried to avoid (Brian Scott). He was kind of sliding back and forth, and when I pulled down the track, there was a car to the inside a little bit closer than I thought, and honestly I probably didn't need to pull down that far, but we've been hit in the right rear this year before, and that's no better.

"It smoked really bad. It actually cut the tire down coming off of 3 as we were hitting pit road, so we got really lucky there for once this season."

The penalty that almost sunk their race

But things went from bad to worse for the rookie driver, immediately hit with a speeding penalty and falling a lap down as a result of the unscheduled pit stop. 

"We got lucky and were able to hit pit road, and then I messed up our luck and I sped off of pit road. You know, I've got to get a little bit smoother in situations where things don't go our way. I've got to try and calm down a little bit and make them a little bit easier on everybody back on the box."

Those series of events could have easily derailed their race, but fortune was on the side of FRM at Pocono. They were able to recover and earn their lap back on a Lap 106 caution, via the free pass. Just over 20 laps later, veteran crew chief Bob Osborne gambled and the No. 34 was leading the way, praying for rain with insufficient fuel in the tank.

The fog no one saw coming

Mother Nature obliged, but not with a track-soaking shower. A thick fog washed over the 2.5 mile circuit and blanketed the track. NASCAR ran under caution for several laps with the hope that the fog would subside. Buescher went into severe conservation mode, trying to save as much fuel as possible.

With 22 laps to go, the cars were called to pit road. And they waited. The track was never lost, but the visibility made it impossible to race. And when a severe thunderstorm put Pocono Raceway in its crosshairs, series officials decided to give up the fight.

So with some assistance from the weather, Buescher was able to score his maiden Sprint Cup win and the second for underdog team Front Row Motorsports.

"Surely our bad luck has got to be past us at this point."

He later added, "We had pretty steep odds coming into this one, but we've been heading in the right direction, and there's no mistaking that. We've been qualifying better. We've been racing better. We've had better speed, better averages. We're just getting to the point now where we need to be able to finish them.

"But you take advantage of every situation that's presented to you, and that's what we did today."

Turning focus towards the Chase

Despite the victory, he is not quite in the Chase. With five races remaining in the regular season, the team must crack the top 30 in points in order to be eligible for the championship.

"We're in a good spot, and we can definitely make up those six points, and we're going to try and get a lot more than that and be ready when the Chase does start to make sure we can advance as it goes through."

Currently, Buescher is 31st in the standings, six points below the cut line. They won the day in Pocono in a race that won't soon be forgotten, but now they have a completely new fight on their hands.

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