Who will have a more wrecked winning car — Erik Jones, who was listed as being involved in three accidents on the way to winning the non-points Busch Clash in February, or the winner of Wednesday night’s All-Star Race at Bristol?
Dustin Long: Erik Jones’ car. Might not be by much.
Daniel McFadin: Erik Jones. It would take a lot for someone to make it to the end of the All-Star Race with more damage than that and win … unless that damage came on the last lap.
Jerry Bonkowski: The winner of the All-Star Race. With $1 million on the line, it’s unlikely any car will get through the race without some damage. The driver with the least damage wins, period.
Who is your pick to win the All-Star Race?
Dustin Long: Joey Logano. He isn’t afraid to beat and bang. This could be his race.
Daniel McFadin: Jimmie Johnson. He’s pissed off, has been fast and was a frontrunner at Bristol back in May.
Jerry Bonkowski:Kurt Busch. I’m going to go with a guy who knows his way around Bristol quite well and who has had a great deal of success there.
What do you put the chances that Jimmie Johnson makes the playoffs?
Dustin Long: 85%. He’s already been disqualified from one race, losing all but one point from that event, and missed Indy, and is still in a playoff spot. It might not be comfortable for his fans, but I don’t think they should sweat it too much.
Daniel McFadin: 90%. He’s been too fast to not make the playoffs in some form.
Jerry Bonkowski: I’m convinced Johnson will make the playoffs, but his success and consistency needs a big jump upward, lest JJ is eliminated at the end of the first round.
Cole Custer’s win was surprising. So what’s the most surprising NASCAR win since you’ve seen since following the sport?
Dustin Long: The one that comes to mind immediately is James Buescher’s 2012 Xfinity Series win at Daytona. He was 11th entering the final corner. Hewon when the top 10 cars wrecked. It was his first NASCAR win and only Xfinity Series victory.
Daniel McFadin: If not Trevor Bayne’s Daytona 500 win, it would be Chase Elliott‘s Roval win last year. He drove nose first into a tire barrier, came back and won. It was shocking to say the least.
Jerry Bonkowski: Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s win in the summer race at Daytona in July 2001, less than five months after his father was killed in the Daytona 500. That was one of the most surprising and emotional wins in any sport I’ve covered in my career.
Where Are They Now? Catching up with James Buescher
James Buescher is one of the most unlikely Where Are They Now? candidates.
He’s still young (turned 30 last month). He can still wheel a race car with aplomb. He had a stretch from 2011-13 that saw him win a Truck Series championship in 2012 and never finish lower than third in the other two seasons.
Yet, faced with no sponsorship after three Truck starts in 2015, the Texas native needed to find job security and make a living to support his wife and young family.
So despite having immense talent and before getting into the prime of his driving career, Buescher walked away from NASCAR five years ago at the age of 25.
“I would have loved to continue racing but I had two infant children at home and it’s hard to run that travel schedule with two little ones, as a lot of drivers know,” Buescher told NBC Sports. “Traveling just made things pretty hard for us.
“As time went on, the phone wasn’t ringing to go drive a good race car. I had opportunities to go racing, but I had spent the previous season (2014 in the then-Nationwide Series) running 10th to 15th most of the year. You’re still driving a race car but it’s not fun, not for me anyways. I want to race and win.
“So it was like ‘Do I take one of these opportunities to go race in the Xfinity or Cup series and run around 20th because of the quality of the equipment or do I not travel and just stay home?’ I chose the latter.”
He has not been in a race car or truck since.
“It was time to do something else,” Buescher said of his former career. “My family has been home building and in real estate my entire life.
“I know cars and houses, and cars weren’t paying me so I figured I’d get my real estate license and make some money off houses. I got my real estate license by the fall of 2015 and it took off pretty quick as far as finding success in real estate.”
By 2017, Buescher and wife Kris formed their own real estate firm, as well as a charitable foundation. Last fall, the husband and wife realtors moved to Compass Realty, one of the largest independent real estate brokerages in the country.
Without question, 2012 was both the most grueling (competed in 20 Xfinity and 22 Truck Series races) yet most rewarding NASCAR season for Buescher. He started with what would be his only career Xfinity win in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway, driving for Turner Motorsports, owned by his late father-in-law, Steve Turner.
But the best was yet to come as Buescher would go on to win four Camping World Truck Series races in the same year, capping things off by winning the championship, also while driving for Turner Motorsports.
“2012 was definitely the highlight year,” Buescher said of his career. “We started that Truck team at the end of 2009. When we walked into the shop for the first time, it didn’t even have a single wrench in it. It’s not like we took over a team. We started from scratch and built a championship team in about 48 months.”
Buescher still recalls the day he won the championship. He entered the race leading Timothy Peters by 11 points.
“I was a nightmare to be around that day,” Buescher said. “I’m not very good at Homestead, it’s not my favorite track, not one of the top performing places for me. I just never really figured it out. We had a great 1 ½-mile program, but I just wasn’t great there.
“The race was a real nail-biter. I’ve never been more nervous for anything, really. You spend a couple years building that team and it’s not just like you just showed up with your helmet and started driving. You helped build what that organization meant at the time. There’s a lot of people that put their heart and soul into what we were doing. It wasn’t just about me, it was about the whole team.”
When the checkered flag fell, Peters finished eighth, while Buescher was five positions back. That was enough for him to win the Truck title by six points.
As important as that race was, the foundation that Buescher built his championship run upon began nearly four months earlier.
“We had been through a lot that year, but the Chicago race (in July) was kind of a statement race for us,” Buescher recalled. “I had gone down two laps down changing a carburetor.
“We were really good in practice, qualified 11th, but we didn’t know why the truck started slowing down at the start of the race. We dropped like we had a parachute hanging out the back. We didn’t have any horsepower.
“We changed the carburetor and basically drove past the field three times to go win the race. It was kind of a never-give-up attitude that just stuck with the whole team from that point on. There’s nothing going to stop us, we’re not going to give up and reach our goal of winning the championship.”
While Buescher counts his Xfinity win at Daytona as a key part of his career, he ranked another of his six Truck wins as No. 2 on his all-time list of career highlights.
“It was obviously a big deal and it was great to say I won Daytona, but I would say one of my favorite racing moments was in 2013,” Buescher said. “We didn’t start off the season very strong, didn’t carry our championship momentum into Daytona and we had a struggle for the first part of the season.
“My son (named Stetson) was born in July and he came to Michigan at 3 weeks old. I won that race, our first win of the year. We passed Kyle Busch for the win with like four (laps) to go.”
That wouldn’t be the only time Buescher would go head-to-head with some of the best in NASCAR and come out ahead.
“We did a lot of cool things in that couple-years span (2012 and 2013). Either Kyle Busch or Brad Keselowski finished second or third to us in four of those (seven career) wins.”
But even for all the success he had, Buescher never got the call-up to the Cup Series.
“We were winning some races and we were winning against some of the best in the sport,” said Buescher, whose cousin Chris drives in the Cup Series for Roush Fenway Racing. “But I never got an opportunity to go show what I could do at the top level.
“That’s something that kind of lingers as a regret, like ‘What if?’ What if I would have taken one of those (secondary Cup) rides to hang around in the back of the pack and then a couple years after I got out of the sport, you started to see a lot of guys retiring and guys my age were taking their spots.
“While it definitely feels good to be known as a NASCAR champion, it’s kind of shocking that you win a championship and two years later you can’t even get a ride in the sport with a decent team. It doesn’t make any sense, really.”
Since he left NASCAR in his rearview mirror more than five years ago, Buescher has attended just two races, both at Texas Motor Speedway, 4 ½ hours away from his suburban Houston home.
It was hard to walk away from racing, something he had been doing since he first started competing at the age of 12. Two years later, he won the 2004 national championship in the Young Gun division of Bandolero Racing, won the Texas Legends championship the following year and was the ASA Late Model Series South champ in 2006.
Racing had been his life for more than a decade until it abruptly hit the brakes due to lack of sponsorship. Still, Buescher admits he’d consider going back if it was the right situation.
“I’ve kicked around the idea of going Truck or Xfinity racing again,” he said. “I know there are teams that have the ‘all-star’ teams that get put together by some organizations to rotate through some Cup drivers and have other some drivers fill out other races.
“I’ve looked into that, it started to gain some momentum on it last year, was talking with some really great teams and I have a ton of connections to some great organizations.
“Honestly, I spent so much time trying to put together maybe a 7- or 10-race type of deal but still run my business that I was affecting my business.
“So there’s a balance there: I love to race but I’ve got a great thing going on in real estate. I have to be sure I don’t let my real estate business fall apart with the amount I’d like to race. I don’t know if I’d want to do a full-time Xfinity schedule. I enjoyed it while I did it, but I don’t know if it’s in the cards to go do right now. But given the right opportunity, I’d figure something out.
“I like to do things 100 percent and if you’re not capable of winning at what you’re doing, you need to refocus and figure out how to put yourself in position to be winning at what you’re doing, and we’ve done that in real estate like we did in racing.
“I don’t have a doubt in my mind that I could go race a truck right now and be competitive and compete for wins, if not another championship,” he said. “I’m not old and in way better shape than I was eight, 10 years ago. And I’m much more mature than I was back then.”
On the last lap around the New York road course, the rumble began when the second place car of Brad Keselowski made contact with and spun leader Kyle Busch in the esses. Then it was on. Keselowski, the eventual Cup champion, and Marcos Ambrose, the defending race winner, took part in nothing short of a brawl, aided by a track coated in oil that had leaked onto the surface.
The two drivers went off course twice in the bus stop, kicking up a cloud of dirt. Ambrose slid going into Turn 5 and recovered enough to deliver a shot to Keselowski’s rear bumper, opening the door for Ambrose. Keselowski then returned the favor in Turn 6, sending Ambrose off course and setting up a drag race to the final turn. Ambrose’s position on the inside line prevailed, as he beat Keselowski through the final right-hander and went on to claim his final Cup Series win.
On this day, the best club in New York was called “The Glen.”
2. Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, Sept. 30, 2018
The drama from the last lap of the inaugural Bank of America Roval 400 came in the final turn and ensured the Roval’s historic Cup debut would not be forgotten.
Defending champion Martin Truex Jr. led Jimmie Johnson, who hadn’t won (and remains winless) since the June 2017 race at Dover. As they approached the frontstretch chicane, Johnson moved to Truex’s left side for a pass. But Johnson’s brakes locked up and sent his No. 48 into a spin that ended with it hitting Truex’s right rear, which turned the No. 78 around.
That’s when Ryan Blaney swooped in to take the checkered flag and score his only win of the year.
Almost forgotten in the chaos was Kyle Larson. Larson had been limping his battered No. 42 Chevrolet around the track following a wreck. He bounced off the wall twice in the final turns and passed the prone car of Jeffrey Earnhardt right before crossing the start-finish line. That gave Larson a 25th-place finish. That one extra spot placed Larson in a tie with Johnson and Aric Almirola for a transfer spot to the Round of 12. But the tiebreaker did not favor Johnson.
3. Chicagoland Speedway, July 1, 2018
Usually when the two frontrunners in a race make contact twice in the last lap and the second contact results in the first-place car going into a slide and the second-place car pancaking the wall, it’s not likely you’ll see a 1-2 finish between those same cars.
Don’t tell that to Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson.
This last-lap duel between them included Larson’s failed “Slide Job!” on Busch exiting Turn 2 and the first contact between them.
Then in Turn 3, Busch gave a push to Larson’s rear bumper, which sent the No. 42 into a slide as Busch contacted the wall.
Thanks to a 55-lap green flag run to end the race, the third-place car of Kevin Harvick couldn’t overtake either as Busch won and Larson finished second.
4. Daytona 500, Feb. 21, 2016
The Toyotas of Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Racing had the front of the field locked down for most of the 2016 Daytona 500. That was true right up to the checkered flag.
Denny Hamlin was fourth at the white flag before a push from Kevin Harvick in the outside lane propelled Hamlin to the rear bumper of leader Matt Kenseth entering Turn 3. Kenseth’s attempt to block a move by Hamlin to the inside resulted in slight contact that had Kenseth successfully avoid a spin or worse.
That set up a drag race between Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. and Hamlin winning his first Daytona 500 by .010 seconds, the closest finish in race history.
5.(tie) Daytona International Speedway, Feb. 25, 2012
There’s last-lap passes for the win and then there’s what James Buescher did in the 2012 Xfinity Series season opener.
Buescher, driving the No. 30 Fraternal Order of Eagles Chevrolet for Turner Scott Motorsports, was in 11th place as the field navigated through Turn 4 for the last time.
Buescher technically passed the 10 cars in front of him. In reality, he avoided a really big wreck.
It would be the only Xfinity win for the cousin of Chris Buescher. James would go on to win that season’s Truck Series title, earning four of his six career Truck wins.
Martin Truex Jr. was two turns away from winning his first short track race in the Cup Series.
Then Joey Logano pulled the rug out from underneath him.
After a spirited six-lap battle between the drivers, the playoff race came down to the final two turns. Logano gave Truex’s rear bumper a shove, drove underneath him and the two made contact as they exited Turn 4. Truex got sideways, Logano won and Truex finished third after Denny Hamlin snuck by him.
The win locked Logano into the Championship 4.
Three weeks later, Logano would pass Truex late in the season finale to win the race and his first Cup title.
7. Sonoma Raceway, July 26, 2016
If Tony Stewart was going to get his 49th and final Cup Series win on any type of track and in any fashion, it had to be a road course and it had to involve some bent fenders.
Stewart earned the eighth and final road course win of his career on this day after a last-lap duel with Denny Hamlin. Stewart lost the lead on the back half of the course. But opportunity presented itself in Sonoma’s signature hairpin turn.
Hamlin wheel hopped as he entered the turn, which left the inside open to Stewart. He took advantage and while Stewart passed Hamlin, he delivered an authoritative door slam to Hamlin’s car before racing to the checkered flag.
8. Homestead-Miami Speedway, Nov. 20, 2016
Jimmie Johnson only led three laps all night in the 2016 season finale. They were the only three that mattered.
Johnson, who started from the rear due to failing pre-race inspection, only took the lead on the overtime restart, taking it from Kyle Larson. Johnson then held off Larson and Kevin Harvick to claim the win and his record tying seventh Cup title.
9. Auto Club Speedway, March 24, 2013
Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin made contact multiple times during the last lap around the 2-mile track in Fontana, California.
The last instance allowed Kyle Busch to streak by on the outside for the win as Hamlin slid toward the inside wall and Logano scraped along the outside wall. Hamlin’s car would impact the wall nose-first with the incident injuring his back.
Hamlin would sit out the next four races before returning at Talladega.
10. Daytona 500, Feb. 20, 2011
Trevor Bayne might be the epitome of a one hit wonder in NASCAR.
A day after turning 20, Bayne made his second career Cup start. It came in “The Great American Race” driving for the historic Wood Brothers Racing.
On the second attempt at a green-white-checkered finish, Bayne received a pushes from Bobby Labonte and Carl Edwards over the last two laps.
Bayne would not win again in 187 Cup starts, the last start coming in 2018.
Honorable Mentions: 2018 Daytona 500, 2011 Coca-Cola 600, 2016 Truck Series race at Canada, 2015 Martinsville Cup playoff race and 2015 Truck Series race at Charlotte.
Now’s your chance to vote. What is the best finish of the 2010s?
I’ve been in lots of these crazy finishes. Some good and some bad. Memorable none the less
Last week’s Cup qualifying at Las Vegas Motor Speedway raised the question of is qualifying more about entertainment or sport?
It was fascinating to watch cars parked on pit road and drivers waiting for someone to go because nobody wanted to be the lead car. They all wanted to be in the draft.
While that took place, spotters counted down the time remaining in the session.
It became a game of who would blink first and take off.
When it was time to go, there was chaos. Cars darted around each other. In the final round, Joey Logano went four-wide on pit road. Ricky Stenhouse passed Logano on the inside and left pit road ahead of him.
“Is chaos a bad thing?” Logano asked NBC Sports’ Jerry Bonkowski this week. “I think that’s the question we have to ask ourselves. Is it chaos? Yes. Is it entertaining? Oh yeah, it’s entertaining, there’s a lot going on. So I don’t know if it’s wrong and we should be changing much.
“I think there’s a couple safety aspects we can add to pit road while we’re jockeying around for position and stuff like that. But as far as the entertainment value, will you get the lap in before the clock runs out, will you get a big enough draft, will they all go out for a second time and you get a big pack again, are they going to knock somebody out of the round? That’s good.
“I don’t know why we would change much of that, I think it’s OK. Yeah, it’s a little chaotic, it’s crazy and none of us has it figured out or scienced out the way we want to have it yet, but that’s competition, that’s just what it is.”
Logano is right. While there was a randomness to who won the pole at Las Vegas, qualifying was as entertaining as any session in recent years.
What happened last week was reminiscent of qualifying at Talladega in October 2014. NASCAR divided teams into two groups for the opening round and each had five minutes. The top 24 overall times advanced.
Most cars stayed on pit road until they hit their cutoff mark to complete two laps. Not everyone made it. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Justin Allgaier were among the cars that didn’t make it to the start/finish line before the session ended. Their fastest laps didn’t count. They both failed to qualify. It’s the only race Stenhouse has failed to make since his 2013 rookie Cup season.
These days, 36 chartered cars are guaranteed a starting spot. That prevents a situation Stenhouse experienced five years ago with a well-funded team.
But that doesn’t ease all the angst. Some competitors were frustrated at Las Vegas because the draft negates who has the fastest car. It’s all about being in the right place to draft and turn the quickest lap. Being in that position can be as much luck as skill.
What happens in qualifying can impact the race. Teams pick pit stalls based on their starting spot. A poor qualifying effort can lead to issues in the race.
Logano is aware of that. He qualified 27th at Atlanta and his team had limited options on where to pick their pit stall. Crew chief Todd Gordon chose a stall behind Alex Bowman’s pit and in front of Martin Truex Jr.’s pit.
Rarely do strong teams pit next to each other because they don’t want to have to go around a car to enter their stall or be blocked in by the car in front. Logano faced that situation at Atlanta. He lost more than 10 spots on each of his first two pit stops because he couldn’t get around Bowman’s car to exit his stall.
That leads back to the question of should qualifying be about entertainment or sport?
The decision today will be easy. The fastest car will be rewarded because teams are not expected to draft.
This issue that will come up again in the coming weeks, though, when the series heads to Auto Club Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway.
“Texas, I don’t know,” Logano said. “I think there’s going to be parts of the track that you want to draft and parts of the track when you’re going to want clean air. When you get to Turns 1 and 2, you’re going to want some air on the car to be able to get through the corner with as much wide open time as possible. That one’s a real question for me.
“I think Kansas is a no-brainer, you’re definitely going to be drafting. As for Fontana, it’ll be interesting. I think there’s going to be some drafting going on there, but I think it’ll be split up a little bit, kind of like the way Atlanta was, kinda 50-50.”
There’s no splitting this issue. It’s about entertainment. Let chaos reign in qualifying.
For all the wins Kyle Busch has amassed in his NASCAR career, there is a recurring theme.
The runner-up to Busch in more than a third of the 197 races he’s won across Cup, Xfinity and the Gander Outdoors Truck Series has been one of five drivers.
The driver who has finished runner-up to Busch the most in those races is Kevin Harvick. He’s done so 18 times — five times in Cup, 10 times in Xfinity and three times in Trucks. The total equates to 9.1 percent of the time Busch has won a NASCAR race, Harvick has been second.
Carl Edwards is next on the list with 15 runner-up finishes to Busch. He’s followed by Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano with 13-runner-up finishes. Next is Kyle Larson, who has placed second to Busch eight times.
Combined, Harvick, Edwards, Keselowski, Logano and Larson have finished second to Busch in 67 of his 197 wins (34 percent).
They are among the 60 drivers who have placed second to Busch in a race he won. The list includes three NASCAR Hall of Fame members (Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Ron Hornaday Jr.), two Indianapolis 500 winners (Sam Hornish Jr. and Juan Pablo Montoya) and drivers who have combined to win 48 NASCAR titles in either Cup, Xfinity or Trucks.
The list could grow this weekend. Busch is entered in both the Cup and Xfinity races at Phoenix.
Here is who has finished second to Busch in Cup, Xfinity and Trucks races and how often:
Tanner Thorson, who competed in 11 Gander Outdoors Truck Series races last season, is recovering after he was involved in a highway crash early Monday morning in Modesto, California.
The 2016 U.S. Auto Club national champion had surgery Monday night for a broken left arm, according to the USAC Racing. Thorson had surgery Wednesday on his broken right foot. He also suffered a cracked sternum, broken ribs and a punctured lung, according to USAC Racing. The organization said that Thorson’s family hopes the 22-year-old can return home soon.
According to a preliminary investigation by the California Highway Patrol, Thorson was driving a 2019 Ford pickup that was towing his sprint car when he approached slower moving traffic shortly before 4 a.m. PT. Thorson’s truck struck the rear of a vehicle. KCRA, an NBC affiliate in Sacramento, reported that vehicle was a milk truck.
The impact sent the milk truck into the next lane where it was hit by another vehicle and then came back across the road and was struck another car. The driver was uninjured. A passenger in the truck was transported from the scene with minor injuries, according to the California Highway Patrol. Thorson’s vehicle came to rest on the shoulder and caught fire.
4. First time in new garages at Phoenix
ISM Raceway at Phoenix debuted its new garages and layout when NASCAR raced there in November.
Kevin Harvick has finished in the top five in half of the 32 Cup races he’s run at Phoenix. He has nine wins there. Jimmie Johnson has 15 top-five finishes in 31 Cup races there. He has four wins there.
Despite the dominance of the two, they have combined for one win (by Harvick) in the last five races at Phoenix. The other winners in the last five races at Phoenix are Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman and Joey Logano.
The Minnesota Vikings’ win against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday marked the first time in NFL history that a playoff game ended with a game-winning touchdown with no time left on the clock.
NASCAR has had its share of dramatic finishes through the years. While it’s easy to debate which dramatic finishes rank among the all-time best, here’s a look at some of the most dramatic (and surprising) wins in NASCAR.
James Buescher, who was 11th in Turn 4 won for his only Xfinity victory in 91 career starts.
Carl Edwards had won the Xfinity race the day at Atlanta but had yet to win in 16 previous Cup starts before he cranked the engine at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March 2005. Edwards came from behind to beat Jimmie Johnson at the line in among the closest finishes in NASCAR.
Dale Earnhardt’s incredible ride from 18th to first in the final five laps in 2000 at Talladega Superspeedway is memorable for that alone but it also was his 76th and final Cup victory. When the video clip below starts, you don’t even see Earnhardt but he’s there lurking and works his way up the field. With two laps left, announcer Jerry Punch exclaims: “The Intimidator is scraped and beaten on the right side, but he will not be denied! “Mr. Restrictor Plate knows there are two laps to go! Earnhardt drives to the high side of Bobby Labonte. Wow.”
As they took the white flag at Watkins Glen International in 2012, Kyle Busch led, Brad Keselowski was second and Marcos Ambrose was third.
What followed was a chaotic final lap that ended with Ambrose winning. It led broadcaster Dale Jarrett to say about the beating, banging and battling: “A year’s worth of excitement in 2.45 miles. Incredible.”
Ricky Craven tried to make his move by Kurt Busch with two laps to go at Darlington Raceway in 2003 but slid up and made contact with Busch and lost his momentum. That allowed Busch to dive underneath and take the lead back. Craven persisted. As they came off the final corner, Craven went underneath Busch for a door-slamming drag race to the checkered flag, nipping Busch by 0.002 seconds to win.
Of course, one can’t include such a list without one of the sport’s most famous finishes. Donnie Allison led Cale Yarborough on the last lap of the 1979 Daytona 500. Yarborough dived low on the backstretch to pass Allison, who blocked. They hit, bounced off each other and hit again before crashing in Turn 3. Richard Petty drove by several seconds later to take the lead and go on to win the event. As Petty celebrated, Allison, Yarborough and Bobby Allison, who had stopped to check on his brother, fought.