HOMESTEAD, Fla — Chris Buescher came out of no where to dominate the first stage of Sunday’s Dixie Vodka 400 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. He first took over the lead on Lap 53 and would net his second career stage victory in doing so by leading 21 of the final 28 laps of Stage 1. He would pick up where he left off early in the second stage in leading 34 of the first 38 laps. Martin Truex Jr. leap frogged him following the green flag pit sequence as he dropped from first to second.
Then, after a caution for Corey LaJoie’s engine on Lap 155, Buescher went from finishing second to sixth in the one lap shootout. It was then that his race changed.
On the start of the final stage, he had a bad restart and even had some damage and faded as the conditions changed. Buescher, brought his No. 17 Ford home in 19th. That’s a far cry from how good that his car really was on Sunday.
“It was a really good start for us, and I was really happy with the speed we had in the daylight in our Fastenal Ford Mustang,” said Buescher. “Really proud of this group. I think we knew this would be a pretty good test for what we were able to have made gains on during the off-season, and I think that showed that a lot of things we hit on and are headed in the right direction.
“I mean, it’s a step in the right direction for us. You know, the finish is not something we’re real happy with right now, but it is good to see Ryan and the 6 guys be able to get a strong finish out of it. Really glad that we were able to run strong for a lot of the race.”
Buescher’s demise came when he had a rough restart on the start of the final stage. He had some contact and faded back as a result. Then, with the day time to night conditions, they just struggled to keep up with his No. 17 Ford in doing so and with running in dirty air at that point, they could never recover.
“With that, unfortunately the night did not do us a whole lot of favors, and dirty air was really rough on us there at the end,” Buescher continued. “But we still learned a ton out of it. A little bit of fender damage that may have slowed us down. It’s an excuse basically. We’ve got to keep working at it hard, but I am really proud of everybody and everybody back at the shop. They did a really nice job on this race car. I think we made some awesome gains. We’ve just got to keep our heads down going to Vegas and see what we can apply and definitely work on what we can make better as the racing goes on.
we just have work to do to figure out how to help ourselves later on, how to work on our cars, or make them as good in traffic as they can be, really work on executing everything perfectly through a race so that we can finish where we were able to get to early on.
“At the end of the day it is very frustrating because we definitely felt like we had a car capable of winning early on, and at the end we definitely weren’t in that good a position and didn’t have that confidence.
“At the same time, the important part is it’s a long off-season, and with this being our first mile-and-a-half, we definitely have a lot of things that we learned from. We’re definitely going to dissect this one very thoroughly and learn from it even more so that we can have more days like this going forward and then just finish them off on the tail end just as strong as we started today.”
He did lead 57 laps though which was more than any other full season of his career. The most he led in a full season prior to 2021 was 33 laps.
Sunday was a good start for them despite the finish.