Chris Buescher and the No. 17 Fifth Third Bank team answered the bell Sunday afternoon at the ROVAL at Charlotte Motor Speedway, finishing seventh to advance into the Round of 8 in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.
“That was probably a little bit more stressful from on top of the box than what it was inside the race car,” Buescher said after the race. “We basically did what we talked about doing, steadily moving up all day and being there to capture those end of day points. I sure would have loved some stage points, but at the same time didn’t want to throw away the race and it ended up being a great call from Scott and everyone on this 17 team.
“We had another fast race car. This Fifth Third Bank Mustang was good and I’m proud of that. I should have been able to run a little bit better than that, but certainly had to keep the big picture in mind. Another top-10 for the road courses, just got to break forward a handful of spots, but that’s a heck of a way to go onto the next round.”
Buescher had a qualifying effort of 20th on Saturday that he wasn’t all that proud of, but used his road course prowess to get into the top-10 midway through Sunday’s race, and never left through the end to the checkered flag.
Stage one ran caution-free, with Buescher splitting the stage in half with a pit stop on lap 20, before going on to finish 20th in the segment. He began stage two in 13th after seven cars inside the top-25 opted not to pit in the opening stage.
Then, he short-pitted the end of stage two, hitting pit road for fresh tires on lap 47 from the fifth spot. A caution just a lap later proved to be timely and positive for the No. 17 team, as he ran 16th at the time of the caution, but restarted seventh as track position flipped to begin the final stage.
Just three laps into the stage, Buescher worked his way inside the top five, and pitted for the final time from fourth at lap 70 under green. From there, five cautions flew over the final 34 laps as Buescher shuffled from fifth to seventh. He restarted seventh on the final restart with 10 to go, and went on to finish there for his fifth road course top-10 of the season.
With the points reset now entering the Round of 8 next week, Buescher is fifth in the reseeded standings, 20 points off the leader.
“I tried not to get too caught up in points, just get to the front,” Buescher added. “I knew if we got to the front and as long as we didn’t have a new winner from behind us I felt like we had a pretty decent idea that a top-10 would do it no matter what else anybody else captured in points.”
Las Vegas Motor Speedway hosts the first race in the Round of 8 next weekend. Race coverage on Sunday is set for 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, with radio coverage on PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.