Chris Buescher, a 21-year-old Roush Fenway Racing rookie in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, never put a wheel wrong on Saturday during the Nationwide Children's Hospital 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and made a great final fuel run to win his first career Nationwide Series race in his 30th career start. The drive was impressive at the 13-turn road course as was the fuel conservation as he went 38 laps on the final fuel run after a nice call by crew chief Scott Graves.
Buescher missed the season opening race at Daytona but now has climbed to seventh in the point standings after returning the No. 60 Ford to victory lane. Buescher is a 10-time winner in the ARCA Racing Series and the 2012 champion in that series.
"It's incredible," Buescher said in victory lane. "This Ford Mustang was fast and we pulled right away and were actually just cruising there at the end."
He was referring to a restart on lap 76 of 90 where he had a lead of over 20 seconds wiped away. He got a good restart with Regan Smith alongside and was able to pull away and then make his lead stand in the closing lap when lap traffic became a factor.
Sam Hornish Jr started from the pole after earning that on Saturday morning but it was Brian Scott who started in third that took the race lead in Turn 2 on the opening lap.
The first caution flew on lap 4 when Jeffrey Earnhardt went into the gravel trap in Turn 4. He would continue after some time in the garage and would finish in 29th of the 39 car field. The race restart on lap 9 and Scott continued to lead. The three drivers able to keep pace with Scott were Hornish, Alex Tagliani, and Chris Buescher.
On lap 18 Justin Marks went off course while running sixth and pitted to get grass off his grill. He was also hit with a speeding penalty. Then on lap 23 Elliott Sadler went off at Turn 6 and on lap 24 pitted to get grass off his grill. He also was hit with a penalty for speeding. Chris Buescher pitted for a scheduled stop on lap 25 from the fourth position. On lap 26 the second and third place cars of Hornish and Tagliani pitted but Tagliani was hit with a speeding penalty.
As James Buescher was limping back to the pits with a flat right-front tire on lap 27 Brian Scott got to pit road for his stop. Then the second caution flew on lap 28 for the tire carcass that came off of James Buescher's car. Ty Dillon brought his car down pit road under caution and his crew went to work on fixing the power steering. He would lose two laps.
The race would restart on lap 33 with Scott in the lead over Hornish, Buescher, Smith, and Brendan Gaughan. Tagliani was in eighth. Hornish got a good restart and he took the lead from Scott off of Turn 2.
On lap 38 Gaughan spun into Turn 4 and contacted slightly into Chase Elliott. Gaughan was trying to take fifth and ended in the gravel but was able to drive out. The third caution then flew on lap 40 when Tomy Drissi spun into Turn 9 and backed into the tire barrier. He would continue after getting towed from the gravel and would finish the race in 23rd.
The race would restart on lap 46 and this time Brian Scott grabbed the lead from Hornish in Turn 1. The fourth caution then flew on lap 51 when Kenny Habul had an engine issue and pulled off course. He was running sixth at the time. His Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Sam Hornish Jr, who was second, also then pulled to the garage with an engine issue under the caution period. Hornish finished 30th and Habul 31st.
Eight cars then stayed on track while other's including the lead cars pitted. Trevor Bayne was in the group that stayed out and led for the lap 55 restart. Dylan Kwasniewski was second, Justin Marks third, Brendan Gaughan fourth, Mike Bliss fifth, JJ Yeley sixth, Ryan Sieg seventh, and Carlos Contreras eighth. Regan Smith was the first driver off pit road of the drivers that pitted for four tires and fuel. He restart ninth with Alex Tagliani tenth, then Brian Scott, Chase Elliott, Elliott Sadler, and Chris Buescher.
Tagliani and Scott tangled on lap 58 forcing Scott into the grass. He pitted on lap 59 to have grass cleaned from his grill. On lap 60 Tagliani pitted as drivers were in their fuel window to the finish. Trevor Bayne pitted from the lead on lap 61 which put Brendan Gaughan into the lead. Regan Smith pitted from second on lap 62 and Gaughan would stay out until lap 66 when he pitted.
That gave the lead to Chris Buescher with Jeff Green in second. Those two drivers were going to try to make their fuel last to the finish if possible without stopping again but probably needed another caution flag to make that work. Unfortunately for Green that caution was for his No. 14 Toyota. Entering Turn 6 on lap 71 his throttle hung and he crashed hard into the tires. He finished 28th. The caution was good for Buescher because it allowed him to save fuel but it also cleared away a 23 second lead he held over Regan Smith.
The race restarted on lap 76 with 15 laps to go and the young rookie from Texas got a good restart and held the lead over Smith. Tagliani restarted third but had some contact with Scott off Turn 1 and coming off Turn 2 Tagliani had dropped to fifth behind Scott and Chase Elliott. By lap 80 Buescher had opened a two second lead over Smith.
Brendan Gaughan was running seventh when he needed to pit on lap 84 due to overheating issues. He would finish in 20th. Buescher's fuel was holding out and on the final lap he still had a comfortable lead over Smith and Scott. That was until Turn 11 when he ran up on the lap car of Tim Cowen. Cowen stayed in the racing groove and in Turn 12 Buescher moved Cowen out of the way with his front bumper and then accelerated off Turn 13 to take the checkered flag and win.
Regan Smith scored his best career road course finish in second and Brian Scott finished third. Chase Elliott was fourth and Alex Tagliani fifth. Finishing sixth was Justin Marks with Elliott Sadler seventh, Dylan Kwasniewski eighth, Trevor Bayne ninth, and Dakoda Armstrong tenth. Mike Bliss was 11th, Ryan Reed 12th, Matt DiBennedetto 13th, Landon Cassill 14th, and Cody Ware was 15th in his first career start. Ryan Sieg was 16th and Tanner Berryhill was the final lead lap car in 17th. Tim Cowen was 18th, Ty Dillon 19th, and James Buescher 25th.
After 22 of 33 races Chase Elliott leads the points by 10 over Regan Smith. Elliott Sadler is 16 points back in third, Ty Dillon is 28 points back in fourth, and Brian Scott is 42 points back in fifth. Trevor Bayne is in sixth, Chris Buescher seventh, Brendan Gaughan eighth, Ryan Reed ninth, and James Buescher tenth.
The next race on the schedule is Friday, August 22nd at Bristol Motor Speedway.
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