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It’s back to business as usual for Chris Buescher and Front Row Motorsports

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As the Chase for the Sprint Cup rolls on, life has returned to normal for Chris Buescher and company.

The No. 34 Front Row Motorsports team was eliminated in the first round and since then, the spotlight has faded away. It’s something Buescher admits that he misses.

“We obviously wanted to make it farther along in the Chase; it just didn’t play out,” Buescher told NBC Sports. “The way the first two races of the Chase went with those really long green flag runs at the beginning, it just didn’t give us a chance to come in and tune on it any, or be able to work any strategy early on in a race. From that standpoint, it just didn’t work out in our favor.

“It’s still awesome that we are where we are. We know we can’t go any further back than 16th.”

Making the playoffs was a boost for Front Row, which has limited resources and small budget compared to some teams. Finishing within the top 20 in points will certainly fall into that category. As does winning a race, which the team did at Pocono Raceway in August to qualify for the Chase.

Being among the 16 title contenders could only leave Buescher shaking his head at the accomplishment – especially with how many drivers from bigger organizations didn’t make the cut.

“It’s pretty awesome to be talked about and hear fans come up and mention pulling for the underdog and being that small team that made it happen, that was big,” Buescher said. “It still is. It’s cool to hear that every week and everywhere we go. We did get a lot of notoriety out of it. It’s great for (sponsor) Love’s being onboard for most of the year, for CSX, everybody to ride on the high of it and be here right now.”

Which is why Buescher doesn’t let the negative comments about his Chase inclusion bother him.

“We did something different that worked out and that was big for us, that changed our whole year, moved a lot of different things around, and put us in a great spot,” Buescher said. “People will always say what they want to. The truth of it is there were 39 other teams that could have made the exact same call and gotten into the Chase and we were the ones that did it.”

As far as riding off any momentum of being in the playoffs, Buescher says it has been business as usual. Crew chief Bob Osborne is back taking chances while the team can be more aggressive in their setups with Buescher not having to worry about putting himself in precarious positions on the track.

Buescher also notes the gains the team has made since the beginning of the year as they’ve become more accustomed to each other. But what does a team aim for next after having accomplished two major goals in their rookie season?

According to Buescher, that would be finding a little more consistency.

“We still have some inconsistencies in that we’ve been able to show up to some racetracks and be really good and we show up to others and we’re not where we need to be,” Buescher said. “The goal would be to try and smooth that out and try and make it to where if we can show up and run fifth at Bristol and be top 10 or top five in practice at Kentucky, we should be able to do that at other short tracks; we should be fast at other intermediates. Making that all carry over has been a goal and trying to make it to where we’re like that every week.”

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Kyle Busch wins Stage 2 of Brickyard 400; Dale Earnhardt Jr. out after accident on restart

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Kyle Busch continued his domination of the Brickyard 400 by winning Stage 2 of the race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Busch, who has led 85 of the race’s 160 laps, led the final 13 laps of the stage. Busch also won Stage 1.

Busch restarted ninth on Lap 75 after eight cars stayed out of the pits during the preceding caution. He passed Ryan Blaney to return to the lead on Lap 87.

The top 10 after 100 laps were Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Blaney, Erik Jones, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski and Jamie McMurray.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s final Brickyard 400 ended early when he ran into the back of Trevor Bayne on the Lap 75 restart. The collision smashed in the front of his No. 88 Chevrolet and damaged the radiator, which began trailing smoke and brought the caution back out. Earnhardt went to the garage with his sixth DNF through the first 20 races of the year.

“We had a great car, I was having a lot of fun, the car was fast, we had a top-10 car for sure,” Earnhardt told NBCSN. “It’s frustrating because I really enjoyed being out there.

“Hopefully, our luck’s going to turn around. It’s been pretty tough and this is a difficult one to put up with.”

The race’s second caution for an accident occurred on Lap 57 when David Ragan spun in Turn 1 and collected Jeffrey Earnhardt and JJ Yeley. Earnhardt and Yeley were able to continue, but the severe damage to Ragan’s No. 38 Ford ended his day.

Yeley’s day ended when he brought out another caution on Lap 70 when his No. 7 Chevrolet lost his right-front tire and hit the outside wall.

The Brickyard 400 is scheduled to end on Lap 160.

 

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s last Brickyard 400 ends early after making contact

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Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s hopes of finally winning a Brickyard 400 in his final career appearance in the mid-summer classic ended abruptly on Lap 77 of Sunday’s race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Earnhardt made contact with the rear of the No. 6 of Trevor Bayne, causing significant damage to the front end and radiator of Earnhardt’s No. 88.

Shortly after that, smoke began to billow from the rear of Earnhardt’s car. He didn’t take the car to pit road, going straight to the garage instead, his day officially over.

“There were just a bunch of cars slowing down and stopping and caused a chain reaction,” Earnhardt told NBC. “I got into the back of the 6 car (Trevor Bayne), they were all getting into each other, and just knocked the radiator out of it.

“We had a great car, I was having a lot of fun, the car was fast, we had a top-10 car for sure. It’s frustrating because I really enjoyed being out there.”

Earnhardt now has just six races to qualify for the NASCAR playoffs. He’s pretty much in a must-win situation if he hopes to make the 10-race playoffs.

“Hopefully, our luck’s going to turn around,” Earnhardt said. “It’s been pretty tough and this is a difficult one to put up with.”

Earnhardt is the second Hendrick Motorsports driver to see his day come to an early end. Chase Elliott suffered engine failure on Lap 45.

 

Engine issue ends Chase Elliott’s Brickyard 400 hopes early

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Chase Elliott‘s hope of winning the Brickyard 400 went up in smoke about one-quarter of the way through Sunday’s 24th edition of the race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Elliott had some issues with his engine that brought him to pit road. After his team looked over the car, it sent him back out on the racetrack and shortly after, smoke began coming out of the rear of his Chevrolet on Lap 44. Elliott took his car to the garage, his day officially over.

“We don’t know, it was some type of motor issue,” Elliott told NBC of the apparent cause of the engine failure. “We went down a cylinder and then started blowing smoke out of the pipes. I’ve been racing Hendrick engines since 2013 and this is the first engine problem I’ve ever had. … We’ll move on to next week and see what we have there.”

Elliott came into the race hoping to repeat what his father did in the latter’s win in the 2002 Brickyard 400.

 

Kyle Busch leads Brickyard 400 at end of Stage 1; Chase Elliott out due to engine problems

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Pole-sitter Kyle Busch led all 50 laps to win the first stage of the Brickyard 400.

Busch is seeking to win his first Cup race in his last 36 starts since capturing last year’s Brickyard 400.

The top 10 after 50 laps were Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Blaney, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Larson, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Denny Hamlin finished the stage in 24th after he pitted twice under the competition caution to fix damage from contact with Ryan Newman on his first trip down pit road.

Chase Elliott is out of the race after his No. 24 Chevrolet blew an engine on Lap 45. Elliott had begun dropping off the pace around Lap 20 and he was a lap down after an extended stop during the competition caution.

It is the first time Elliott has lost an engine in his Cup career.

The first caution of the race occurred on Lap 9 when Corey LaJoie hit the wall in Turn 3. During the caution the field was brought to pit road on Lap 12 ahead of severe weather.

The race was red flagged for lightning before it began raining. The red flag lasted one hour, 47 minutes and three seconds and was lifted at 4:47 p.m.

The race went back to green on Lap 18.

The competition caution originally scheduled for Lap 20 was pushed back to Lap 30.

Stage 2 will end on Lap 100 with the race scheduled to go 160 laps.