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After rain-shortened win, Chris Buescher hopes sun will shine again on him at Pocono

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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.”

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NASCAR America: Steve Letarte: Denny Hamlin showing ‘remarkable consistency’

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Things have been going relatively well for Denny Hamlin on the track in 2018.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver enters this weekend’s race at Martinsville Speedway sixth in points. Through five races, he’s finished outside the top six once (17th, Las Vegas).

NASCAR America’s Steve Letarte, Dale Jarrett and Nate Ryan discussed his season so far in addition to Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Penske.

Letarte said Hamlin has displayed “remarkable consistency.”

“Denny Hamlin is in my mind a super star driver that I know I am guilty of leaving him out of super star conversations,” Letarte said.

Ryan pointed to mistakes on pit road that have prevented Hamlin from enjoying more success this season and in his career overall. His result at Las Vegas was the result of a speeding penalty.

“Five races this season, four pit mistakes,” Ryan said. “He overshot his box at Daytona, he did that at Fontana, he sped in the pits at Phoenix. While I think they’ve had speed, I think that team is still stumbling in the same ways it has in the past. Unless they correct that, I don’t know if they’re championship level yet.”

Hamlin heads to Martinsville where he has won a career-best five races.

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Trevor Bayne on Charlotte Roval: ‘You have to be on your game’

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Rain washed out the second day of Goodyear tire testing Wednesday on Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Roval. Goodyear has tentatively scheduled May 1 as a make-up test date.

Trevor Bayne, Kyle Busch, Paul Menard and Kyle Larson took part in the test Tuesday.

“I just took some slow pace laps and got a feel for the race track,” Bayne said in a statement from Charlotte Motor Speedway. “I was nervous, but I wasn’t anxious because I was never going to go out there and make qualifying laps. We worked our pace in and our plan, we stuck to it. I felt really good by the end of the day.

“You have to be on your game, that’s for sure. You can’t really let your guard down anywhere. There’s no room to make mistakes. If you make a mistake, you’re going to pay for it pretty quickly. If you try to do something and it doesn’t work, you’ll pay the price. It’s going to be a survival race. … If you’re smart, you take care of your car and you don’t make mistakes, you’ll have a really good shot at the end for a good finish. I enjoyed it. It was a challenge for me – something new – and I enjoyed that part of it.”

Organizational tests at Charlotte will be in July. There will be two different sessions. Each team is allowed to test at one of the two sessions, which will be July 10 (rain date of July 11) and July 17 (rain date of July 18).

The Charlotte Roval hosts the final race of the first round of the Cup playoffs on Sept. 30 on NBC.

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NASCAR issues two fines for unsecured lug nuts at Auto Club Speedway

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NASCAR announced two crew chief fines for unsecured lug nuts last weekend at Auto Club Speedway.

Adam Stevens, crew chief on Kyle Busch‘s No. 18 Toyota, was fined $10,000 for one unsecured lug nut.

In the Xfinity Series, Eric Phillips, the crew chief for Ryan Preece‘s No. 18 Toyota, was fined $5,000 for an unsecured lug nut.

No other penalties were announced.

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Drivers to watch, favorite sports upsets

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and begins to look forward to this weekend’s racing at Martinsville Speedway.

Marty Snider hosts with Dale Jarrett, Steve Letarte and Nate Ryan from the “Big Oak Table” in Charlotte.

What to expect from today’s show.

  • The same names have been dominating the headlines in the first five races in the 2018 season. We will take a look at some of the other drivers to be on the lookout for as the season rolls on.
  • One of NASCAR’s most historic tracks is up this weekend – Martinsville! We’ll check out some of the recent drama “The Paperclip” has provided ahead of the race.
  • In the spirit of March Madness, our panel will tell us about their most memorable sports moments, as well as some of NASCAR’s biggest upsets.
  • Plus, The Indianapolis 500 will have a new home in 2019. We’ll have all the details on NASCAR America.

If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.