Chris Buescher and Brett Moffitt making most of unexpected Sprint Cup opportunities

3 Comments

They came from small towns.

Brett Moffitt hails from Grimes, Iowa, a community of 9,000 about 20 minutes northwest of Des Moines.

Chris Buescher is from Prosper, Texas, a town of nearly 13,000 about 40 minutes north of Dallas.

While their parents built houses for a living, both moved to Charlotte, N.C., to pursue their racing dreams, eventually signing as development drivers for NASCAR Sprint Cup teams.

Now the 22-year-olds – born about two months apart – find themselves in the unexpected role of replacement Cup drivers with a chance to prove they can be permanent solutions.

“This has been a hectic year and not really in a good way on the Cup side,” Buescher told NASCAR Talk. “A lot of crazy things have happened.”

***

For Moffitt, it began with Brian Vickers’ recovery from offseason heart surgery, which forced Vickers to miss the first two races of this year.

“The day they announced that Michael (Waltrip) would be in (Vickers’) car at the Daytona 500, they pulled me aside afterwards and told me ‘Hey, everything’s done, we’re just waiting to announce it, but you’re going to be in the car at Atlanta,’” Moffitt said. “Then I had to go a week without telling anyone, which is really hard because I was obviously super excited.”

That enthusiasm and Moffitt’s talent led Waltrip to hire the youngster in 2011 to drive in the K&N Pro Series East and be a test driver for the Cup team.

“When I see a kid like that, it reminds me of when I was that age and how much I wanted to race and what it would mean to me to be able to get in that car and race in NASCAR,” Waltrip said.

Moffitt’s seven Cup races for Premium Motorsports in 2014 also helped convince Waltrip to put a driver with one Xfinity Series race and two Camping World Truck Series starts in a Cup ride.

Moffitt exceeded expectations with an eight-place finish at Atlanta before Vickers returned at Las Vegas. Moffitt’s run led to a two-race stint with Front Row Motorsports to drive for David Ragan while Ragan filled in for an injured Kyle Busch in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18.

Moffitt was to have driven a third race with Front Row at Auto Club Speedway before a 4 a.m. phone call changed that.

“I actually thought I was in trouble for something,” he said.

Instead, MWR needed a driver. Vickers suffered a recurrence of blood clots, which also forced him out of the car in 2010 and 2013. Vickers was back on blood thinners and out of the car at least three months.

Later that day, Moffitt had to literally squeeze into Vickers’ fire suit.

“It was kind of comical,’’ Moffitt said. “It wasn’t a height thing, I’m just bigger all the way around.”

Since Moffitt was only scheduled to drive the No. 55 in one race, he had contemplated storing his fire suit in a shadow box.

That enclosed glass display case is on hold, though, for as long as MWR and its sponsors deem Moffitt a worthy replacement.

“We’re trying to figure out the future of the team,” Waltrip told NASCAR Talk. “There’s a chance there’s a road racer at (Sonoma), or maybe I drive it at Talladega. We just want to have those options open. Brett’s a part of our team. He’s been there for a couple of years now … he’s the guy in our car for the near future.”

***

Chris Buescher was taken aback.

That same morning Moffit received his wake-up call, Buescher was eating breakfast at his team’s hotel when the second-year Xfinity Series driver was asked by Front Row Motorsports if he could substitute for Moffitt in the Auto Club 400.

“It was very quick, very to the point, ‘What do you think?’ said Buescher, who consulted Robbie Reiser, the general manager of Roush Fenway Racing.

Reiser told Buescher to do it, noting the experience the driver would gain. Within a couple of hours, Buescher was fitted for a seat.

Two days later, Buescher made his first career Sprint Cup start and finished 20th, two spots ahead of Moffitt.

The ensuing month has been hectic for Buescher. He’s split time between the Roush Fenway Racing and Front Row Motorsports shops with his Charlotte home halfway between them.

“You’re running down to one in the morning, going past the house all the way back up to the other one, then back down in the afternoon,” Buescher said. “So it’s been a lot of driving, a lot of work trying to get fit in at both shops. It makes it a little tougher during race week having to communicate with two entirely different organizations.”

While Moffitt had turned heads with his eighth-place finish at Atlanta, Buescher impressed his employer’s when he didn’t turn them. A week after his Cup debut at Auto Club Speedway, Buescher made his first start at Martinsville, finishing 24th.

“Martinsville is a give-and-take place and rookies can’t take much,” car owner Jack Roush told NASCAR Talk. “They’ve got to give a lot and he gave enough so that he didn’t manage to make somebody mad at him and get wrecked and he still got a reasonable finish.”

Buescher knows he’ll drive a Sprint Cup car a few more weeks. The day before finishing 30th at Texas, Front Row Motorsports announced that Buescher would drive at Bristol and at Talladega. He’s skipping Richmond to focus on his full-time Xfinity ride.

“We’re looking great in points right now, and we need to go out here and capitalize on it and the cards will fall as we go forward,’’ said Buescher, who is two points behind series leader Ty Dillon.

Roush said he believes Buescher is two to three years away from a shot at a full-time Cup ride. An Xfinity title, though, could alter the schedule.

“That would certainly grease the skids for him,” Roush said. “This is probably not a bad time for a driver to be doing what Chris is doing, showing his skill and ability and to show his blue sky potential.”

Xfinity Series playoff standings entering first round

Leave a comment

The Xfinity Series playoffs begin this weekend with a 12-driver field set to compete for the championship.

The playoffs start Saturday night with a race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric start the postseason tied after they each earned 50 playoff points during the regular season.

More: Las Vegas entry lists

The last four drivers in the standings are Ryan Sieg (2,002 points), Michael Annett (2,002), Riley Herbst (2,001) and Brandon Brown (2,000).

Here are the full playoff standings entering the Round of 12.

 

Cup playoff standings entering Round of 12

Leave a comment

The Round of 12 in the Cup playoffs has arrived following Saturday night’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Eliminated from contention were Matt DiBenedetto, Ryan Blaney, Cole Custer and William Byron.

The second round begins Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

More: Entry lists for Las Vegas

Kurt Busch begins the round last in the standings with 3,0001 points.

Here is the full playoff standings entering the Round of 12.

Drivers in yellow are those who will compete in the Round of 12. Drivers in red were eliminated at the end of the first round.

Cup playoff standings

 

NASCAR entry lists for Las Vegas

Leave a comment

The Round of 12 begins this weekend for the Cup Series and NASCAR’s entry lists for Las Vegas Motor Speedway are out.

All three national series will compete at the 1.5-mile track as the Xfinity Series begins its playoffs and the Truck Series holds its second playoff race.

More: Bristol winners and losers

Here are the preliminary entry lists for Las Vegas:

Cup – South Point 400 (7 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN)

Thirty-nine cars are entered for the first race of the Round of 12.

Joey Logano won at Las Vegas in the spring over Matt DiBenedetto and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. This race was won last season by Martin Truex Jr. over Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski.

Click here for the Cup entry list.

 

Xfinity – Alsco 300 (7:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

Thirty-four cars are entered in the Xfinity playoff opener.

Daniel Hemric is entered in JR Motorsports’ No. 8 Chevrolet.

Austin Hill is entered in Hattori Racing Enterprises’ No. 61 Toyota.

Chase Briscoe won at Las Vegas in February over Austin Cindric and Ryan Sieg. This race was won last year by Tyler Reddick over Christopher Bell and Brandon Jones.

Click here for the Xfinity entry list.

 

Trucks – World of Westgate 200 (9 p.m. ET Friday on FS1)

Thirty-six trucks are entered.

Ryan Truex is entered in Niece Motorsports’ No. 40 Chevrolet.

IndyCar driver Conor Daly will make his Truck Series debut in Niece Motorsports’ No. 42 Chevrolet.

Travis Pastrana is entered in Niece Motorsports’ No. 45 Chevrolet for his second start of the season.

Kyle Busch won at Las Vegas in February over Johnny Sauter and Austin Hill. Austin Hill won this race last year over Ross Chastain and Christian Eckes.

Click here for the Truck entry list

NASCAR 2020 schedule: Times, TV channels, stream info and tracks for Cup series

Leave a comment

The second round of the NASCAR 2020 Cup series playoffs will begin on Sunday, September 27 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

William ByronCole CusterMatt DiBenedetto and Ryan Blaney saw their championship hopes end last Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway where Kevin Harvick stole the show with his ninth win of the season. Harvick’s victory at Bristol marked a career-best milestone as his previous best was eight wins back in 2018.

Click here to see the NASCAR entry lists for Las Vegas 

    RELATED: Bristol Cup results, driver points report

NASCAR 2020 Schedule Playoffs – Round of 12

Sept. 27 – South Point 400

Time: 7 p.m.
Track: Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Oct. 4 – YellaWood 500

Time: 2 p.m.
Track: Talladega Superspeedway

Oct. 11 – Bank of America Roval 400

Time: 2:30 p.m.
Track: Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL

Playoffs – Round of 8

Oct. 18 – Hollywood Casino 400

Time: 2:30 p.m.
Track: Kansas Speedway, 2:30 p.m.

Oct. 25 – Texas 500

Time: 3 p.m.
Track: Texas Motor Speedway

Nov. 1 – Xfinity 500

Time: 2 p.m.
Track: Martinsville Speedway

Championship – Round of 4

Nov. 8 – NASCAR Cup Series Championship

Time: 3 p.m.
Track: Phoenix Raceway


PAST RESULTS for NASCAR 2020 SCHEDULE

Daytona 500

Date: Feb. 17
Winner: Denny Hamlin

Pennzoil 500 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Date: Feb. 23
Winner: Joey Logano (video)

Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway

Date: March 1
Winner: Alex Bowman

FanShield 500 at Phoenix Raceway

Date: March 8
Winner: Joey Logano (video)

The Real Heroes 400 at Darlington Raceway

Date: May 17
Winner: Kevin Harvick

Toyota 500 at Darlington Raceway

Date: May 20
Winner: Denny Hamlin (video)

Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway

Date: May 24
Winner: Brad Keselowski

Alsco Uniforms 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway

Date: May 28
Winner: Chase Elliott  (video)

Supermarket Heroes 500 – at Bristol Motor Speedway

Date: May 31
Winner: Brad Keselowski

Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway

Date: June 7
Winner: Kevin Harvick

Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway

Date: June 10
Winner: Martin Truex Jr. (video)

Dixie Vodka 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway

Date: June 14
Winner: Denny Hamlin (video)

Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway

Date: June 22
Winner: Ryan Blaney

Pocono Organics 325 at Pocono Raceway

Date: June 27
Winner: Kevin Harvick

Pocono 350 at Pocono Raceway

Date: June 28
Winner: Denny Hamlin

Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400 at The Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Date: July 5
Winner: Kevin Harvick

Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway

Date: July 12
Winner: Cole Custer

NASCAR All-Star Race

Date: July 15
Winner: Chase Elliott

O’Reilly Auto Parts 500

Date: July 19
Winner: Austin Dillon

Super Start Batteries 400

Date: July 23
Winner: Denny Hamlin

Foxwoods Resort Casino 301

Date: Aug. 2:
Winner: Brad Keselowski

FireKeepers Casino 400

Date: Aug. 8
Winner: 
Kevin Harvick

Consumers Energy 400

Date: Aug. 9
Winner:
Kevin Harvick

NASCAR Cup Series Race at Daytona Road Course

Date: Aug. 16
Winner:
Chase Elliott

NASCAR Cup Series Race at Dover

Race 1

Date: Aug 22
Winner:
Denny Hamlin

Race 2

Date: Aug. 23
Winner:
Kevin Harvick

Coke Zero Sugar 400

Date: Aug. 29
Winner:
William Byron

Playoffs – Round of 16

Date: Sept. 6 
Winner:
Kevin Harvick

Date: Sept. 12
Winner:
Brad Keselowski

Date: Sept. 19
Winner:
Kevin Harvick

For more on the NASCAR 2020 schedule, news and information, read NASCAR Talk