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Buescher looks for bigger win, and $1 million that comes with it

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Last year’s win at Pocono was the biggest win in Chris Buescher’s life.

He’s looking for an even bigger win – with a $1 million prize to the victor – in this Saturday’s NASCAR Cup All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“It would probably top my last win,” Buescher said in a team media release. “It would be awesome. If we could pull it off, it’d be very special.”

Buescher feels that his JTG Daugherty Racing team has been steadily improving since he began racing for it this season (he raced for Front Row Motorsports last season).

“Our program has gotten much stronger over the last month and a half, specifically, and I’ve been really happy with the progress we’re making,” Buescher said. “Everything is starting to come together really nicely.

“We feel like we’re starting to put together really competitive cars on the racetrack, we just have to get through a little bit of bad luck and try to be mistake-free.”

But in a format like the All-Star Race, mistakes are more likely to happen than in a conventional points-paying race.

“I think there’s going to be the opportunity to make mistakes, and I think that opportunity is going to be larger than it usually is, just with all the different options we have on pit road being such a competitive place,” Buescher said. “Everyone is going to try to get as much speed as possible and you have to make sure all the lug nuts are tight and that you hit your pit box the right way. It’s going to be a challenge.

“But if you can pull that one off, it’s going to be a huge thing on your resume to be able to say you got a win at the All-Star Race.”

Buescher is in a much different situation for this year’s All-Star Race: he’s got a confirmed starting spot via his Pocono win, while last year he fell short of making the All-Star Race field.

“We tried really hard to get into the All-Star Race last year and just weren’t able to do it,” Buescher said. “But with that win at Pocono last season we’re qualified in, so we’re taking what we’ve got and we’re ready to go racing.

“We get to qualify with the other all stars, which is always interesting with the no speed limit pit road qualifying format. It’s going to be a busy weekend. It’s going to be exciting racing for a million dollars for the first time. It’s an awesome opportunity and I’m just happy to be a part of it.”

Buescher makes a good point about the no speed limit pit road during qualifying.

“It’s always been kind of comical to watch how difficult it is and see how easy it is to slide through the pit box and make a mistake,” he said. “When you’re not trying to participate in it, it’s a lot of fun to watch. But now that we’re in it, it’s a little stressful.”

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Entry lists for All-Star events; Truck race at Charlotte

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Twenty-one drivers are entered for the NASCAR Open, seeking to either race their way in or receive the fan vote to the All-Star Race on Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Drivers who have already clinched an All-Star spot: Chris Buescher, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Martin Truex Jr.

Among those seeking to make their way through the Open are: Chase Elliott (fourth in points), Clint Bowyer (10th) and Ryan Blaney (11th).

Joey Logano won last year’s All-Star Race.

Click here for entry list for Open race

There are 33 entries for Friday’s Camping World Truck Series race at Charlotte. Among those entered are Kyle Busch and NASCAR on NBC analyst Parker Kligerman.

Matt Crafton won last year’s race. Johnny Sauter enters the event as the points leader with a two-point advantage on Christopher Bell.

Click here for Truck entry list

 

Dale Earnhardt Jr. loses pit selection, six others docked practice time at Kansas

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. is among six drivers being docked practice time Friday at Kansas Speedway, while the No. 88 team is also losing pit selection for the Go Bowling 400.

Earnhardt’s loss of 15 minutes of practice and pit choice are a result of failing pre-race inspection at Talladega three times.

Kyle Busch and Corey LaJoie ‘s loss of 15 minutes of practice was deferred from Talladega after rain washed out practice.

Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray and Chris Buescher lose 15 minutes for failing pre-race inspection at Talladega.

Erik Jones will lose 15 minutes of practice for missing the rookie meeting.

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Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s career best season continues, pit gamble leads to Richmond top five

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When the Toyota Owners 400 started, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. thought he had a top-five caliber car.

Even after a Lap 66 accident that put him in the wall, Stenhouse turned out to be right.

He managed to finish fourth thanks to a pit strategy that kept his No. 17 Ford on the track with five others during the final caution period Sunday at Richmond International Raceway.

Stenhouse’s partners in desperation were Kyle Larson, Chris Buescher, Martin Truex Jr., David Ragan and Cole Whitt.

The strategy wound up only benefiting Stenhouse and Truex, who finished 10th.

Stenhouse’s chance at redemption came thanks to a Ryan Blaney accident on Lap 378.

“I couldn’t run my fastest lap until about Lap 5 or 6,” Stenhouse said. “As soon as that caution came out, I was like, ‘We have to stay (out)’. It worked out for us.”

The Roush Fenway Racing driver earned his second top 10 in two weeks and his second top five of the year. The first, at Phoenix, also came about from pit strategy that kept Stenhouse out of the pits before the final restart.

The big difference between Sunday and the Phoenix race is how much time Stenhouse had to stay ahead of cars on fresh tires.

At Phoenix, Stenhouse only had to make it through a two-lap shootout. In Richmond, he had to endure 19 laps around the .75-mile track.

“I made it a lot of work for us there getting in the fence later in that first stage, and really we were fighting back all day from there,” Stenhouse said. “It was a no‑brainer there to stay out that last caution. I was glad it came out because I thought we missed the opportunity the run before to stay out. It worked out perfect.”

Stenhouse’s result is a career best at Richmond. His previous best in the last eight starts there was 10th in the fall 2013 race. It’s the fourth time in the last six races Stenhouse has earned a career best result at a track. He’s used his performances to rise to 15th in the points standings. In his fifth full Cup season, that’s the highest he’s ever been at this point in a season.

“I think you could say we’ve been a 10th‑place car on the short tracks and gambled some and had some good finishes,” Stenhouse said. “I’ve been finding a lot of success in that even if the car is not perfect, being able to change my adjustments and what I’m doing in the car to get the best out of it. It’s getting that way on (1.5-mile tracks) for sure. We’ve just got to keep building better cars and bringing faster cars to the racetrack and putting the whole weekend together, not making mistakes.”

Stenhouse and the No. 17 team now head to Talladega Superspeedway, where two of his nine Cup Series top fives have come. He finished fifth there last fall after leading six laps.

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What drivers said after the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond

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Fords dominated Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway, with four drivers sitting behind the blue oval winding up in the top-five.

Here’s what many of the drivers in today’s race had to say after the checkered flag:

Joey Logano – Winner: “Coming from the back, being the 300th start and pulling into victory lane, man, that feels good. I drove my guts out there. We ended up with the winning car, something I’m really proud of. … Good, good, it’s nice to finally break through to get a win.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished second: “What we really needed was another 10 more laps, I wish it was the Richmond 410 or 500. … Just getting all those yellows at the end and couldn’t make any of it. Glad for our teammate to get a 1-2. We didn’t get quite all the breaks to fall our way and that’s how it goes sometimes.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished third: “We were competitive and our car drove really good. We were just missing some of the speed from the 2 (Brad Keselowski) and the 22 (Joey Logano), they run a little more sideways than what we run and just they have more grip. I think we optimized our day for the most part and that’s about as good as we could do.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished fourth: “Man, we had to fight hard for this top five. I made a mistake early. I thought we had  car capable of running in the top five a lot. I just got loose into (Turn) 3 and got into the fence and had to play catch-up for there. I was on the splitter. I couldn’t run my fastest lap until about la five or six. As soon as that caution came out I was like, ‘We have to stay (out)’. It worked out for us. Our Ford was really fast. I want to thank the fans for coming out. It was a hot one.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished fifth: “We had a good day. This has been a tough race track for us. We ran in the top-five all day and battled up front for the lead off and on. The last three runs we got tight in the center and loose off the corner and couldn’t find anything to make that better. Our Busch Light Ford team did a great job and we just keep knocking off those top-fives and the wins will come.”

Jamie McMurray – Finished sixth: “Yep, I had a really consistent car all day. I didn’t have any problems. It was really a normal race. The cautions at the end helped us on one, and hurt us on one. But overall it was a really good day. I’m super happy for GearWrench. This was their debut in NASCAR and it was awesome to let those people in the suite have a super good day and see all that, so I’m really excited about of performance all year long.”

Ryan Newman, Finished seventh: “It was a good day for this No. 31 team today. We got to lead laps and contend for the race win, so that’s all I can really ask for. I’m just proud of how we were able to improve on our Chevrolet all weekend long. Our car really raced well during the long green flag run; and if the race would have stayed green for the final 50 laps, I think we would have had something for them.”

Kurt Busch – Finished eighth: “We had to drop back and punt. We came down pit road a lap down, in the lucky dog position and just started throwing rubbers and went wholesale on it and made great improvements. We are somehow missing the balance but we were able to make changes today to improve the balance and be competitive enough to get in the mix. We got eighth and that is about as best as we could hope to attain.”

Aric Almirola – Finished ninth: “It was a solid day for us. I am really proud of everybody on the Smithfield Ford Fusion here. We had a good day. We needed that. We typically run well here. This is one of our better tracks. It is great to get a good solid finish here in Richmond, Virginia, Smithfield headquarters aren’t far away and we had a lot of friends and family of employees at the race. It was a solid top-10 and I am really proud of the effort today.”

Martin Truex Jr. – Finished 10th: “We were going to finish about tenth either way. We just weren’t that good today. Just one of those days where you battle all day and hope to get a top 10 and we barely did that. Got some work to do for next time but all in all it’s a – wish we were better.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 11th: “I just have to try to figure out if I just didn’t hear it being told to me or if it wasn’t told to me. I just feel terrible, obviously. Man, I’m surprised our cars even kept rolling after that because I just body slammed him into the wall and I could have easily not heard the clear or something else happened. I don’t know, but that’s the last thing you want to have happen with a teammate.”

DANIEL SUÁREZ – Finished 12th: “I think it was okay. The first half of the race it was very tough. In the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, it’s just so difficult. You get behind one or two adjustments and then you get a lap down or two laps down and it’s very difficult to recover that. Luckily we got a lot of cautions right there at the end and I was able to overcome those laps down that I was down. Very proud of the team. They never give up. They were working hard on the race to try to make it better. I just feel like we have to work hard in the first third – first half – of the race to try to stay with the rest of the guys.”

Trevor Bayne – Finished 13th: “This was a hard-fought 13th. We were really tight all race long rolling through the center but I am extremely proud of everyone on this team. We never gave up all race long and got ourselves another top-15 finish. We’ll take it. It’s nice being this consistent every week. We’ll keep building on this and get after it again next week in Talladega.”

Clint Bowyer – Finished 15th: “No doubt we’re disappointed. We were going to have a top-10 and maybe a top-five today. Everyone is trying hard. Car was good, and we had great pit stops today.”

Chris Buescher – Finished 17th: “We made some good steps throughout the race. We took a big chance there at the end, we had some good strategy and we got us a couple of positions out of it. We just fought tight in the center all day and just kind of a characteristic of this race track it is just part of it. We will keep working on it and not a bad day overall.”

Danica Patrick — Finished 18th: “We were just off to start the race, but the guys made changes all day in an effort to make the Code 3 Associates Ford handle better. The car was just way too tight in the center of the corner. The penalty definitely didn’t help matters, but we still came home with the best finish we’ve had in a while, so we’ll take it and move on to Talladega.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 20th: “I wish we would have stayed out on that last pit stop. That was my call to pit and it didn’t work out for us this time. The No. 17 car was right with us and he stayed out and ended up finishing fourth. Our AAA Chevrolet was fast during portions of the race but during other portions of the race we struggled with handling. Overall we had a lot of obstacles to overcome today and we worked hard as a team so I am proud of our efforts.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 24th: “We just never really hit on anything and I thought we were going to salvage a decent day there by just luck and then kind of the way everything worked forward and just got in trouble there at the end and it hurt too much.”

Paul Menard – Finished 25th: “Today was a challenge for sure. That was the loosest race car I think I’ve ever driven. Matt Borland did a good job making calls for adjustments throughout the race. We also had great pit strategy which helped us end on the lead lap. Borland took a risk hoping for a caution and we stayed out during green-flag pit stops. That paid off when the yellow flag came out and we were able to pit, then took the wave around during the next yellow flag. That allowed this team to get back on the lead lap, where we ultimately crossed the finish line in 25th.”

Ty Dillon – Finished 26th: “I’m so proud of this team. We really had a fast race car today. There’s no question. I hate it that we ended up damaged there at the end. I’m not sure how I could’ve avoided what happened there but the Chevy was really fast and we were able to gain some stage points today. Next week is the GEICO 500 at Talladega and I’m sure we are all looking forward to getting there.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Finished 30th: “Jimmie didn’t know the car was there (his crash with Jimmie Johnson). … It wasn’t a great day. We made a lot of adjustments. That last run, I was pretty happy. Obviously, we were trying a wild strategy to stay out. … Just terrible luck. I don’t know what to do. We were probably going to finish between 10th and 15th today. Not all that awesome, but we just had terrible luck.”

Erik Jones – Finished 38th: “I don’t know what happened. I guess they were three-wide. I was on top and just got ran into the fence right on lap one and that’s unfortunate. I mean, it’s 400 laps – I just wish there was a little bit more patience at times. It’s frustrating – I was just trying to get this race going and work. We’re racing hard, so it’s a bummer, you know? We cut a left front, couple of laps later out in the wall and our day is over. Those guys get to keep racing, so it sucks, but we just have to move on.”

We’ll continue to update as driver quotes come in to our desk. Please check back soon.

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