Chris Buescher has had this weekend circled on his calendar for 10 months.
Buescher earned his first – and only to date – NASCAR Cup win on August 1, 2016 at Pocono Raceway while driving for Front Row Motorsports. It was life-changing in several ways.
Not only was it his first triumph in NASCAR’s premier series, he did it as a Cup rookie – and also qualified himself for last year’s playoffs.
It also led to switching to JTG Daugherty Racing in 2017 as part of a unique driver-sharing agreement with Roush Fenway Racing.
Buescher remains under contract to Roush Fenway, even though he’s driving a Chevrolet in 2017 instead of a Ford for JTG Daugherty, and is teammates with A.J. Allmendinger in JTG Daugherty’s first season as a two-car team.
Now the Prosper, Texas, native is back at a place he’ll never forget. There’s an old axiom in NASCAR that no matter how many wins a driver earns in his career, he or she will never forget the first one.
It’s the same with Buescher.
“I remember that day clear as yesterday,” Buescher said. “I had 80 minutes on pit road to think about it.”
That was due to rain and fog that came through the Pocono region. After waiting for nearly an hour-and-a-half, NASCAR called the race official after Lap 138 – 22 laps shy of the scheduled 160 laps.
“It was weather-related, but we’ll take it,” Buescher said. “The history books at the end of the day won’t show anything but a win, and there was some really good strategy there and not something that we purposefully got into.
“We had a flat tire earlier that put us on a different sequence and it ended up working out really well. I do like Pocono, I’ve had some good runs there and almost won an ARCA race there and it was called as we were passing for the lead due to fog.
“So, this is kind of like payback and I’ll take a Cup win over the ARCA win. But now that we’re even there, I think we’re going to have to go win a Cup race on merit.”
And the first of two chances to do that this season happens in Sunday’s Axalta presents the Pocono 400 on the 2.5-mile tri-oval.
But it won’t be easy, Buescher admits.
“Pocono is a tough place,” he said. “All three corners are so different, and it’s just a unique race track.
“It’s challenging. I love going there. We were able to pull off the win there last year and pull off a little bit of strategy and that’s always going to be a big part of Pocono and racing in general.
“It’s going to be a matter of how to figure out how to make it to the end and keeps the fenders on. It’s been pretty treacherous the last couple of races so we’ve got to figure out how to keep our No. 37 Scott Products Chevrolet clean.”