TALLADEGA, AL - OCTOBER 22:  Chris Buescher, driver of the #34 Love's Travel Stops Ford, stands on the grid prior to qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Hellmann's 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 22, 2016 in Talladega, Alabama.  (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
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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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Brad Keselowski Racing announces crew chief assignments

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Brad Keselowski Racing has announced the crew chiefs that will be paired with both of its full-time rookie drivers this season in the Camping World Truck Series.

Austin Cindric, driving the No. 19 Draw-Tite Ford, will work with Doug Randolph. Randolph has been a crew chief for BKR since 2012 and has six wins, including three with Tyler Reddick in the last two seasons. Randolph also has four Xfinity Series wins.

Mike Hillman Jr. will be the crew chief for Chase Briscoe in the No. 29 Cooper Standard Ford. Hillman is a two-time Truck series champion as crew chief for Todd Bodine (2006, 2010). He has 20 Truck Series wins, the last coming in 2013 with Jeb Burton.

“Austin Cindric has already had success in various forms of racing, and has shown a lot of potential in our Ford F-150 race trucks,” said Keselowski in a press release. “I certainly believe that Chase is ready to take the next step in his career, and we’re excited to have him join the BKR family. He won the ARCA championship in his first full-time season, and he’s proven to have the ability to learn quickly and win races. We’re pleased to give both Austin and Chase the opportunity to compete full-time at a high level in NASCAR.”

Briscoe, 22, enters his rookie season after winning the ARCA Racing Series title behind six race wins.

“It’s an absolutely huge opportunity and such an honor to drive for Brad,” said Briscoe in a press release. “The competition level in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is so high, but I’m going to be in the best equipment out there. It’s really cool to once again be working with the Keselowski family. When I moved to North Carolina three years ago, I was helping Brian and Bob in their shop, so things have come full circle. I’m truly blessed with this opportunity, and I hope to make the most of it. At the end of the day, it’s all about winning races and championships, and that’s what I plan to do.”

Cindric, 18, is the son of Team Penske president Tim Cindric. He has six starts with BKR over the last two seasons. His best result is 15th last November at Phoenix International Raceway.

“This is a massive opportunity from Brad and everyone at BKR who trusts me and believes in my abilities as a driver to move on to the next level for a full season,” said Cindric in a press release. “2017 gets more and more exciting for me with every day that goes by. I’ve only done a handful of one-off races in my brief stock car career, so I’m really looking forward to having the same guys by my side week in and week out. I’ve spent a lot of time at the shop the last few weeks and I know everyone is really excited to get back racing.”

The Truck Series season begins Feb. 24 at Daytona International Speedway.

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Kurt, Kyle Busch come up short in Nations Cup finale at Race of Champions

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 04:  NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kyle Busch hugs brother Kurt Busch during the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards show at Wynn Las Vegas on December 4, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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After early exits in the first day of the Race of Champion exhibition Saturday in Miami, Kyle and Kurt Busch returned on Sunday in hopes of winning the Nations Cup for the United States of America, but were swept in the finale by Germany’s Sebastian Vettel.

The brothers, representing Team USA NASCAR, were in Group A with USA IndyCar, USA Rally and ROC Factor Canada.

Kurt Busch’s struggles from Saturday continued in his first race against IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe. The Canadian driver beat Kurt Busch by .002 of a second. The NASCAR representative would bounce back in his next race, beating action sports star and former NASCAR driver Travis Pastrana.

In Kyle Busch‘s first race of the day, he faced and beat karting champion Stefan Rzadzinski of Canada. He followed it up by beating Scott Speed.

After six races, Team USA NASCAR and IndyCar had four wins each and faced each other in the semifinal round. But the Busch brothers prevailed over Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi from USA IndyCar to advance to the Nations Cup final against Vettel, who represented Germany by himself.

But Vettel swept the race, betting Kurt then Kyle Busch to claim the Nations Cup. Vettel swept all of his races, finishing Sunday with seven wins.

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NMPA names Jimmie Johnson Driver of the Year among annual awards

HOMESTEAD, FL - NOVEMBER 18:  Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 18, 2016 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
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Jimmie Johnson was named the Richard Petty Driver of the Year on Saturday by the National Motorsports Press Association as part of its annual awards banquet.

It’s the seventh time that Johnson – who was named on 62 percent of the ballots cast – has been recognized with the award. He previously won it in 2004, ’06, ’07, ’09, ’10, and ’13.

The award comes after Johnson became the third driver to win a seventh championship in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

The NMPA also named Al Pearce of Autoweek as its annual Pocono Spirit Award winner.

The award, sponsored by Pocono Raceway, “recognizes character and achievement in the face of adversity,
sportsmanship and contributions to motorsports.”

Pearce won for a four-year project that raised $13,000 through the auction of a racing helmet signed by the 20 living World Driving Champions and Phil Hill and Sir Jack Brabham prior their passing. Proceeds from the project went to the Victory Junction Gang Camp, the Kyle Petty Charity Ride, the Jimmie Johnson Foundation and the Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation.

Dave Ferroni, the public relations representative for Furniture Row Racing,  was awarded the Ken Patterson Helping Others Award.

Involved in auto racing for more than 30 years, Ferroni was the publicist for the “Miracle on Ice” U.S. hockey team in 1980 before later serving working for Brainerd International Raceway and the National Hot Rod Association. His company, DMF Communications, has also worked with U.S. Army, Miller Brewing Co., Pennzoil, McDonald’s and Valvoline.

The Ken Patterson award is sponsored by Talladega Superspeedway, where Patterson served as the public relations director, and has been given out since 2004. The track will donate $1,000 in Ferroni’s name to the Kenneth Patterson Educational Trust Fund.

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NBCSN to broadcast NASCAR announcement at 6 p.m. ET Monday

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NBCSN will air live a press conference held by NASCAR industry stakeholders to discuss the upcoming 2017 season at 6 p.m. ET Monday.

The announcement will be attended by NASCAR executives, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers, NASCAR team representatives and NASCAR track representatives.

The press conference is being held at the Charlotte Convention Center.