Chris Buescher, driver of the No. 17 Fastenal Ford Mustang Dark Horse for Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing, went to Victory Lane the last time the NASCAR Cup Series visited Richmond Raceway. Buescher, who has three straight top-10 finishes going into this weekend, spoke to members of the media on Wednesday.

CHRIS BUESCHER, No. 17 Fastenal Ford Mustang Dark Horse – HOW DO YOU FEEL AFTER COTA AND HEADING INTO RICHMOND? “A lot of hard work in COTA to get to that point. Certainly, it was a rough start to our day there. It’s one of those deals with a strange part failure that didn’t know that was a thing, so we won’t have to worry about that going forward. Heading into Richmond, a track that I have despised for most of my career, has certainly been a lot better since the Next Gen car. We’ve been very competitive there for a couple years. Last year, I really enjoyed both races and then being able to be so good there in the fall, not just our car but both of our race cars, to the point where I felt like we were battling each other for the win there through the final stage. It was a lot of fun. It’s a track that I’ve really wanted to like for most of my career, for all of my career. I made my first NASCAR start there subbing in an Xfinity car with Roush, so it should have held a little better place in my heart, but it’s been a tough one for a long time. That being said, I’m truly excited to be heading back to Richmond. I know we’ve spoke with a lot of you through the last 18 months at this point and talked about RFK as a group feeling like we don’t have to circle racetracks as our only opportunities while also not having to circle racetracks that we’re dreading. This is certainly one that we feel like is a great opportunity knowing where we were at last season. We obviously have some changes with the new Mustang and with the short track aero package, so we’ve got some changes coming at us but we’re ready for them and feel like it could be another race-winning day and get our streak started a lot earlier, which sure would be nice. That basically was our main goal on the year is how do we take what we had starting at the Richmond fall race and start this season off in the first quarter with that kind of momentum. How do we win a race early on and get that fired off to where we’re in a better place through the summer and not feeling like we’re trying to play catch-up.”

HOW WOULD YOU EVALUATE YOUR OVERALL PERFORMANCE THIS YEAR? SOME MIGHT SAY YOU ARE OUTPERFORMING YOUR SPEED. “I would probably argue the opposite. We were able to lead in four of the first five races and the one we didn’t lead any laps we finished second in Phoenix. When I look at that, our speed was certainly there. The finishes were not. Then you take in and look at the last two weeks, we didn’t qualify good in COTA and then obviously had to start in the back and that put us way behind with no cautions to really find ourselves with much opportunity to work up. Our group did a great job on strategy to work our way up. We had a fast race car and were able to pick them off, but realistically I would call COTA a good day for us running eighth. We did not have race-winning speed there, so we want more and have some ideas. If you look at Bristol, we were able to get to the point where we led laps there. It was obviously a very strange race for all of us, but both of our cars finished very well in Bristol. I would argue that the speed was there and that we had the possibility to run even better if we feel we didn’t have to save so much, which maybe the whole field says the same thing there. It’s a tough one, but we always know we’ve been fast at Bristol, so, honestly, I’m gonna argue the opposite. Maybe with the exception of COTA, feeling like we knew that was gonna be a tough day, so I would say eighth place – we may not have had the speed to do more than that, but I think that was a lot of good hard work to get to that point and feel like we legitimately should have run about there and have some work to do to be better for road courses going forward. Really, it’s come down to a lot of execution, a lot of finishing these things out right – more qualifying speed. That’s still high on my list. I put ourselves in a really big hole at Bristol and we’ve basically had two weeks staring at the entire field in front of us. That’s a tough way to go, but we’re in a good place mentally now heading into Richmond. I feel like we’re gonna get it turned around on that side of things.”

IF YOU DON’T SEE THE TYPE OF STRENGTH AT RICHMOND THIS WEEKEND, DO YOU START TO GET WORRIED AT ALL ABOUT THE CHANGES IN THE FORD AND/OR PACKAGE THAT WERE MADE? “I wouldn’t say that one race will decide that. We realize what we’ve had on the year and we’re still working to get a Ford in victory lane and that is certainly our goal this week. No one sits still in our sport and everybody is gonna be coming at us to try and be better at Richmond. It will be a good measure on where we have a hold of this new package, so I think that we will be in a good place. It’s so hard because practice changes so drastically at Richmond. Our first laps on track will be so fast. I think we’re in Group A again. Somehow we’re always in Group A, so our first laps on track will be stupid fast. Group two will be a lot slower and then when it comes to qualifying Group A will probably be considerably slower and they’ll keep speeding up would be our prediction as we get into the second group. I was just talking with Scott, this is actually one of the races last year that a lot of people pushed for our qualifying change so that we don’t end up sixth in your group but starting all the way back in 20th. If the whole group is faster than you group and you just missed the top five, you certainly want to have that little bit of equalness between the two groups. I say all of that in a roundabout way just to say that we all know how practices can be very wild here at Richmond, so we won’t have that read until the race is over, I’d say. Then, at that point, we will have to evaluate where we’re at, hopefully from victory lane and say everything is just fine and we’ll move right on along. If that’s not the case, then dive into it and figure out what it is that we’re truly missing because we do have a very good baseline for this one and figure out how to find that.”

COULD THE ISSUES BE MORE THE EXECUTION SIDE OF THINGS AS TO WHY A FORD HASN’T REACHED VICTORY LANE YET? “If it was just us or just our organization that we were talking about, I would say then maybe you’d bring it down to execution, but when we have the numbers that we do I’d say it’s probably hard to put a blanket over all of us and say that the execution hasn’t been there with a single one. You also have the new underbody or the short track package with it, so what we did have as a baseline it wasn’t simple to just change it over. We’re not the only ones going through it though. The Toyota camp had the same thing in front of them, so we’re working through it and trying to figure out what exactly it is. I can’t speak for everybody, but in our camp we certainly have some execution stuff that we need to clean up. I need to make some better decisions at the right times from behind the wheel and put ourselves in a better spot. We need to qualify better. That certainly has been a big hit and we need a little bit of luck on our side and that’s from here inside the RFK building. I think that’s where our head’s at. I don’t think we’re saying that we’re way behind and we need these big changes. I think we’re in a little bit of a learning spot. We’re probably deep enough into the season now to where we certainly need to be coming up with solutions to what it is that we need to be learning, to be better, to be closer to winning and we’ve had some solid runs. We’ve been in the top 10 a lot, so we’ve been close, but we haven’t closed the deal and don’t feel like ultimately we’ve been in the running to really close the deal. As strong as Phoenix was for us, the 20 was lights out. We still have work to do if we’re gonna win races. I’ll go back to Phoenix, but a day like that when you feel like you passed a bunch of cars and did really good, but there was still one that you just weren’t close to that one challenges you a little bit more. When you’re sitting there and say there were 15 cars better than us, we know we’ve got some work to do in a lot of ways to improve. But when one car finds a way or one team finds a way, that puts everybody on notice. That’s where we’re at. Don’t panic yet. We’ve got a couple good tracks coming at us still and we are excited about what the next four to five week will hold for us. We need some clean up.”

HAVE YOU NOTICED MORE ENGAGEMENT FROM FORD? “No, not from where I’m sitting right now. Maybe that’s probably for higher tables than mine, but, for me, it’s been a lot of business as usual. We see all of our Ford folks at the track and we’re excited to run in these races and figure out how to make them wins. Again, the speed has been there at a lot of times, not all of the time, but we’ve got some learning to do still. I’m sure the right areas are getting more attention to where we can discover it together. It’s just probably in different rooms than where I’m at.”

IT’S YOUR 300TH CUP START THIS WEEKEND. BRAD IS THE LAST DRIVER TO WIN ON HIS 300TH START, SO WHAT DOES THAT MILESTONE MEAN TO YOU? “What that means to me is I’m getting old and it snuck up on me quick. It feels like it wasn’t that long ago it was our rookie season heading into Richmond as a cutoff race before the playoffs – had won a race at Pocono that year and didn’t have a stellar year. We were doing all we could to finish in the top 30 in points to make sure that we could make the playoffs, so it certainly is a long way removed from that. It’s been a long time coming, but at the same time it feels like that was just yesterday, so it’s a cool stat that Brad was able to do it and I’m certain that he does not want me to win my 300th start because he wants to win it. I’m not gonna get any sympathy or extra help from him from that stat or that standpoint, but it certainly is cool to be sitting here right now talking about the seasons that we’ve had, the progression that we’ve been able to make through the years. It’s probably been a little slower at times than I would have liked and didn’t always see the light at the end of the tunnel, but certainly had a lot of fun along the way regardless. I’ve made fantastic friends through our industry and a little outside of it from doing this for the last seven or eight years at this level and I’m ready for another seven, eight, 10 or 15 more. I want 10 or 15 more like last year when we can win multiple races and make steps at running for a championship.”

IT WAS ANNOUNCED THAT THE IOWA XFINITY RACE IS A SELLOUT. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT BOTH OF THOSE RACES BEING SELLOUTS FOR JUNE? “That’s awesome news. I love that racetrack and for all the years that we didn’t run there on the Cup side since the last time I was there in 2015 I’ve said that I wish we could take a Cup car to Iowa. The fans show up there and pack that place. They are passionate about racing at that racetrack. It’s a short track in ways. That’s awesome news because I have always felt that and that’s not because you put the question directly to me. I have loved that racetrack and have seen people show up to really support that facility for any style of racing, including ARCA racing when we were there. There were huge numbers out there as well. I just feel like it’s a fun racetrack and puts on some good shows and our fans enjoy it. I knew the Cup race would sell out. I figured the Xfinity race may have already been sold out, but that is awesome to hear that they have sold out on the Xfinity side. That’s big news for the week and it’ll be a lot of fun.”

Riley Herbst, driver of the No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang Dark Horse for Stewart-Haas Racing, comes into this weekend’s race at Richmond Raceway sitting fifth in the point standings. He held a Q&A session with media on Wednesday to talk about Saturday’s race and the start to his season.

RILEY HERBST, No. 98 Monster Energy Ford Mustang Dark Horse – WHAT IS THE FEELING AROUND THE TEAM WITH ALL OF THE BAD LUCK YOUR TEAM HAS HAD THIS SEASON? “I think we have had really good speed at every track, except for probably last week at COTA, but I kind of knew that going in a little bit, just not really being my strong suit as a racetrack, but we’re going back to Richmond where we led some laps last year, had good stage finishes and then ultimately got wrecked with like 15 to go, so I’m excited to see what Davin is bringing to Richmond this weekend. I know it’s going to be fast and hopefully we can get back on track with top threes and top fives and get some points back.”

IS IT EASY TO SHUFFLE THAT BAD LUCK UNDER THE COUCH? IS THE MOOD STILL GOOD BECAUSE OF THE PACE? “Yeah, I think the morale is really high in the shop with both me and Cole and all the team guys. We’ve shown pace at every track we’ve gone to. Ultimately, neither of us have won yet, but I think we’re OK being in the position we’re in. Cole is fourth in points and us fifth in points, so we’re excited. We know the season is still really early. Ultimately, we both want to win and I think we’re both going to win this year. It’s just a matter of time.”

YOU’VE BEEN IN THE TOP FIVE 487 OF THE 744 LAPS, SO WHAT DOES THAT TELL YOU? “That tells me that we left a lot on the table still. If the two teammates didn’t wreck the field at Phoenix and we get caught up in that, that would have been more laps I feel like at Phoenix. If I did a better job last week in executing at COTA, we could have had more there, too. It’s cool to see how far I’ve progressed and how far this team has progressed and how we continue to just get better each and every week, and hopefully we can do some more of that this weekend at Richmond. It’s one of my favorite tracks.”

WHAT DOES THIS STRETCH OF TRACKS MEAN TO YOU AND YOUR GROUP? “It’s honestly very important. I think the first five weeks have been up and down for sure for the 98 team, and I think we can capitalize on these next five tracks for us. Richmond is really awesome. Martinsville is fun. Texas, we’re gonna have a really fast race car. Davin loves that place and obviously anything can happen out in Talladega, and Dover is a good racetrack for myself too. I’m excited for the tracks upcoming. We should have nothing but really good pace at every single racetrack and it’s fun going to the racetrack knowing that I have a car that can win and can win stages and lead laps, so I’m excited to see what the next five hold.”

IS THERE AN INTEREST FROM A RACER’S PERSPECTIVE TO SEE WHAT BUBBA POLLARD CAN DO THIS WEEKEND? “Yeah, I’m interested. I’ve raced against Bubba a few times. He’s really, really good. He’s probably the best super late model racer and he’s pretty good friends with Noah as well. Noah has given him a bunch of notes I heard and he’s gonna have really good equipment at Junior Motorsports, so it should be nothing but a good run for Bubba and I look forward to racing him on a nice little worn out short track.”

Ford Performance PR