Chris Buescher picked up three spots during a feverish final two-lap dash to bring his No. 17 Fifth Third Bank Ford home 11th in Sunday night’s famed Coke 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Buescher and the No. 17 team battled to the final turn, overcoming an early penalty on pit road to secure the solid finish in one of NASCAR’s biggest events of the season.
After qualifying 19th, Buescher worked his Ford up to 13th position, where he settled in until the competition caution flag waved at Lap 20. The team pitted for four tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment, but received a penalty on pit road and had to restart from the rear of the field.
Buescher hit the track running top-five lap times, driving up to 23rd before the field was red flagged for heavy rain in the area. Once the weather subsided and racing resumed, the No. 17 team hit pit road for four more tires and fuel and Buescher moved his car up to 16th at the end of Stage 1.
The 2015 Xfinity Series champion pitted at the stage break for grill tape, four tires and fuel and returned to the field in 13th position. Halfway through the second stage, Buescher was toggling between 12th and 15th. As the first green-flag pit stops cycled through, the team elected to pit for four more tires and fuel. Back on track in 20th and one lap down, Buescher reported that his Ford was tight across the center and that his long run speed was off. The No. 17 team took the green-white checkered 18th, earning the free pass position to restart stage three back on the lead lap.
The longest green flag runs of the race came in Stage 3. Buescher held steady in 18th all the way up to a green flag pit stop at lap 256. The team took four tires and fuel, returning to the track one lap down and 21st. Spotter Mike Herman reported a tire rub on the No. 17 machine, but fortunately the smoke subsided as the team continued to focus on making lap times. At lap 275, a competitor car hit the wall and Buescher took the opportunity to pit for fresh tires and fuel with the caution. The driver restarted 17th, but finished the stage 15th.
Buescher’s successful stage break pitstop for four tires and fuel helped him to restart 13th. The driver lost momentum on the restart and slid back to 16th. A late race caution allowed the No. 17 team to pit one more time to fix the front turn. The adjustments and strong restart helped propel Buescher to the 12th-place result.
The NASCAR Cup Series returns to Charlotte Motor Speedway Wednesday for a 310-mile (205-lap) event, scheduled for 8 p.m. ET (FS1, PRN, SiriusXM Channel 90).