Chris Buescher raced his way to a berth in NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup after finishing 24th in the Federated Auto Parts 400 Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway. The finish kept Buescher within the top 30 in championship points and, combined with his August 1 win at Pocono Raceway, earned him one of 16 spots in the series' playoffs.
The Chase berth is the first for Front Row Motorsports and will guarantee the highest-ever points finish for a Front Row driver in the team's history. Buescher will start the playoffs ranked 13th and, as a Chase competitor, can finish the season no lower than 16th. The 23-year-old Prosper, Texas, native joins Chase Elliott in the 2016 Chase class as the first rookies to make the Chase since Denny Hamlin in 2006.
The result didn't come without its challenges. Buescher and his No. 34 CSX "Play It Safe" Ford recovered from a mid-race flat tire as well as damage suffered during a late-race multi-car accident that resulted in a 20-minute red-flag period.
“It's obviously a big night for Front Row Motorsports and Bob Jenkins for a small team like we are to be able to pull it off and get that win at Pocono and find ourselves in the Chase right now," Buescher said after the race. "It's pretty special. Everything worked out the way we needed it to pull this night off the way we needed to."
The Chase for the Sprint Cup is a 10-race playoff, with four drivers eliminated every three races until four remain to race for the Championship in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 20.
"This is a big day for our team, and I'm incredibly proud of everybody who worked so hard to get us here," team owner Bob Jenkins said. "Everybody at FRM, Roush Fenway Racing, Roush Yates and Ford worked together toward this one goal and it's so gratifying to see all that work pay off and see our No. 34 car competing for the championship."
The "Round of 16," the first segment of the Chase, begins Sept. 18 at Chicagoland Speedway and also includes races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Dover International Speedway.