For as excited as Chris Buescher is to go to Richmond International Raceway with a chance to earn a Chase spot, he knows there is more work to do.
Buescher, sitting 30th in points, enters the Federated Auto Parts 400 with an 11-point advantage on 31st-place David Ragan. Buescher needs to remain in the top 30 in points for his win at Pocono Raceway to count toward Chase eligibility. And Richmond, Buescher knows, is one of Ragan’s favorite racetracks, which could make the fight tougher.
“The stressful part of it, I’ve tried to just let that be,” Buescher said after finishing 17th at Darlington Raceway last weekend. “I stressed myself out really bad last year trying to race for points (in the Xfinity Series championship) and being ahead and trying to hang onto it was probably a little bit worse than trying to build a cushion and feel like we’re ready to go. But it’s something that you definitely take note of. We’re coming out here to have good races, and we know that if we do what we come to the racetrack to do every week, then that’s all we can do.”
Buescher has limited experience at Richmond. Saturday night will be his second Sprint Cup start at the Virginia short track. He finished 34th there earlier this year. However, in five Xfinity starts, Buescher has three top-10 finishes.
While he said his No. 34 team would not approach this weekend any different, there will be a heightened sense of awareness. Buescher said he would want to know Ragan’s position throughout the night while he focuses on staying out of trouble.
“Number one priority,” Buescher said. “Number two is to get the most points possible and be aggressive. We need to put ourselves in a position to gain every point that is absolutely possible without taking a huge risk. That’s kind of been the mentality the last couple weeks – gain points but be cautious when you should be.”
A top-15 finish, according to Buescher, should be good enough. It’s what he and crew chief Bob Osborne will seek. As for the feeling of knowing he’s one of the drivers going to Richmond with a shot at making the Sprint Cup playoffs, Buescher couldn’t help but smile.
“It is pretty neat because with the Xfinity Series being a traditional points system last year, we haven’t been in a Chase format,” Buescher said. “I’ve watched a lot of these things play out, and I know how exciting Richmond can be, especially for anyone on a bubble spot. We talk about not trying to let the stress get to you, but you definitely see the stress come out in a lot of drivers.
“The exciting thing is the groove widened out really well last time, and I don’t remember that happening on the Xfinity side, so I’m excited to be able to run the top … We’ll adapt that theory for the weekend, as long as we’re fast up there, and we’ll make it into an exciting race into the Chase.”