Chris Buescher

In The Fast Lane: Most Improved after Pocono

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Photo by: Sean Gardner

No. 1 Kyle Larson – Kyle Larson earned his fourth top-five finish of the season during the Gander RV 400, finishing fifth.

Larson earned stage points during Stage 1 (sixth) and Stage 2 (10th). He ran as high as second and held an average position of ninth.

Larson is 14th in the point standings, 267 points behind Logano and 42 points behind 10th place, which is held by Ryan Blaney.

No. 2 Martin Truex Jr. – Martin Truex Jr. earned his eighth top five of the season on Sunday, finishing in the third position.

Truex earned stage points in Stage 1 (fifth) and Stage 2 (fourth). He was running down the leaders in the final laps to contend for the win before a caution sent the race into overtime.

Truex is fifth in the point standings, 123 points behind leader Joey Logano.

No. 3 Brad Keselowski – Brad Keselowski earned his 11th top-10 finish of 2019, finishing eighth.

Keselowski failed to earn stage points during Stage 1, but earned them in Stage 2 with eighth.

Keselowski is sixth in the point standings, 129 points behind teammate Logano and six points behind Truex in fifth.

No. 4 Chris Buescher – Chris Buescher claimed 16th on Sunday, gaining 21 positions from one year ago, when he finished 37th.

Buescher failed to earn stage points, but ran as high as 12th.

He is 21st in the point standings, 385 points behind Logano and five points from Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in 20th.

No. 5 Aric Almirola – Aric Almirola finished outside of the top 10 on Sunday, but gained 13 positions from his finish one year ago.

Almirola claimed 12th place on Sunday. He ran as high as third and earned Stage 1-playoff points after crossing the line in the eighth position.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver is ninth in the point standings, 210 points behind Logano and 87 behind Truex.

In The Fast Lane: Most Improved after Kentucky

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Photo by: Matt Sullivan

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series visited Kentucky Speedway under the lights for the Quaker State 400.

Four different organizations are featured in this week’s Top 5, with one driver earning his first win with a new team.

No. 1 Kyle Larson – Kyle Larson earned his third top-five finish of the season on Saturday, finishing fourth.

It is the Chip Ganassi Racing driver’s second top-five finish in three races.

Larson failed to earn stage points in Stage 1, but earned them in Stage 2 with a sixth place finish.

He is 13th in the standings, 235 points behind leader Logano and 31 points away from Almirola in 10th.

No. 2 Kurt Busch – Kurt Busch earned his 31st career MENCS victory, leading 41 laps at the 1.5-mile track.

Busch won Stage 1 and finished seventh in Stage 2.

The victory is the veteran’s first of the season and first with Chip Ganassi Racing.

Busch is tied with former champion Martin Truex Jr. for sixth in the standings, 128 points behind Logano.

No. 3 Denny Hamlin – Denny Hamlin earned his eighth top five of 2019, finishing fifth.

Hamlin led five laps on Saturday in addition to finishing fourth in Stage 1.

He is fifth in the standings, 119 points behind Logano.

No. 4 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished 12th at Kentucky, after leading 21 laps.

Stenhouse earned stage points in Stage 1 with seventh and held an average position of 12th throughout the event.

Stenhouse is 19th in the standings, 319 points behind Logano and 46 points away from the last cutoff position held by Erik Jones, in 16th.

No. 5 Chris Buescher – Chris Buescher earned his fourth top-10 finish of the season on Saturday, scoring 10th.

Buescher failed to earn stage points, but ran as high as third. Buescher also tied his 2017 season with most top-10s in a season.

He is 21st in the standings, 350 points behind Logano and 23 points behind Paul Menard in 20th.

In The Fast Lane: Most Improved after Kansas

Photo by: Sean Gardner

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series visited Kansas Speedway on Saturday, May 11th ahead of Mother’s Day.

Five different organizations are featured in this week’s Top 5, including a rookie and a former MENCS champion.

No. 1 Tyler Reddick – Tyler Reddick earned the first top 10 of his Cup career on Saturday, finishing in the ninth position.

Reddick, who is the defending Xfinity Series champion, failed to earn stage points on Saturday, but ran as high as third and held an average position of 16th.

No. 2 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. barely missed scoring a top-10 finish during the Digital Ally 400, finishing 11th.

The Roush Fenway driver earned stage points during Stage 1 (third) and Stage 2 (fifth).

Stenhouse is tied with Paul Menard for 20th in the standings, 211 points behind leader Joey Logano and 37 points away from 15th.

No. 3 Jimmie Johnson – Jimmie Johnson earned his fifth top-10 finish of the season at Kansas, finishing sixth.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver failed to earn stage points, but ran as high as fourth throughout 400.5 miles.

Johnson sits 16th in the standings, 186 points behind Logano and 48 points behind 10th place, held by Ryan Blaney.

No. 4 Chris Buescher – Chris Buescher earned his second top-10 finish of 2019 on Saturday, finishing 10th.

Buescher earned stage points in Stage 1 and Stage 2 with sixth place finishes, respectively.

Buescher is 23rd in the standings, 253 points behind Logano and 42 away from 20th.

No. 5 Daniel Suarez – Daniel Suarez finished 14th on Saturday, gaining 14 positions from his finish one year ago.

Suarez failed to earn stage points at the 1.5-mile track, but ran as high as second and was seventh by the middle of the race.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver is 13th in the standings, 163 points behind Logano and 25 points behind Blaney.

In The Fast Lane: Most Improved after Richmond

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Photo by: Sean Gardner

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series visited Richmond Raceway for their first night race of the season, where a former champion earned his first victory with a new team.

No. 1 Martin Truex Jr. – Martin Truex Jr. earned his first short track victory of his career on Saturday, April 13th.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver led 186 of 400 laps. He earned stage points in Stage 1 (third) and Stage 2 (second).

Truex held off Team Penske’s Joey Logano by .178 seconds.

Will this victory give Truex the momentum going into Talladega? He has an average finish of 21.3 at the super speedway, holding two top-five finishes and eight top 10s.

No. 2 Paul Menard – Paul Menard earned his second top-10 finish of the season on Saturday, finishing in the 10th position.

The Wood Brothers Racing driver earned stage points in Stage 1 (ninth) and Stage 2 (10th). He ran as high as fourth with an average position of ninth.

Menard is 16th in the point standings, 187 points behind leader Kyle Busch and 54 points behind Chase Elliott, who is in the 10th position.

No. 3 Brad Keselowski – Brad Keselowski earned his fifth top-10 finish of 2019, finishing seventh.

Keselowski led twice for 31 laps. The Team Penske driver earned stage points in Stage 1 (sixth) and Stage 2 (fourth).

Keselowski sits fifth in the points standings, 87 points behind Busch and 36 points behind fourth place.

No. 4 Ryan Newman – Ryan Newman earned his second top 10 of 2019, finishing in the ninth position.

Newman’s finish gives the Roush Fenway driver back-to-back top-10 finishes.

He failed to earn stage points, but ran as high as sixth.

Newman is tied with Austin Dillon for 14th in the point standings. He sits 184 points behind the leader and 51 behind Elliott.

No. 5 Chris Buescher – Chris Buescher finished outside the top 20 on Saturday night, but that does not take away from another impressive performance by the JTG-Daugherty Racing driver.

Buescher ran as high as fourth with a 13th place average position throughout 300 miles.

Buescher earned stage points in Stage 1 (eighth) and Stage 2 (ninth), before fading in the second half of the race to finish 22nd.

Notables: Kyle Larson has failed to earn a top-10 finish in the last fives races, with finishes of 12th, 18th, 39th, 19th, and 37th.

Can Larson and the No. 42 team avoid the “Big One” at Talladega and earn their first victory since the fall race at Richmond in 2017?

In the Fast Lane: Most Improved after Daytona

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Photo by: Robert Laberge

The 2018 NASCAR season kicked off to an incredibly start in the 60th running of The Great American Race at Daytona International Speedway.

An iconic number returned to Victory Lane after being pushed by another, while rookies and veterans alike were the victim of the Big One.

This week’s Top 5 most improved drivers earned their place by making impressive moves, improving their positions from a year ago, and leading laps and earning stage points.

No. 1 Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. – The Richard Petty Motorsports driver finished a career high second in his first start in the Daytona 500. Wallace, who started seventh, remained up front throughout the event and became the highest finishing African American in the event. Wendell Scott held the previous record for his 13th place finish in the 1966 Daytona 500.

Wallace pushed Austin Dillon to the win Sunday evening and avoided the Big One, despite contact with Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin in overtime.

The RPM driver can take the momentum and confidence gained and apply it next weekend at Atlanta. Wallace has three Xfinity starts at the 1.5-mile track, his best finish is sixth from one year ago.

No. 2 Austin Dillon – Austin Dillon stated he doesn’t remember much about the 1998 Daytona 500, in which he stood in Victory Lane next to the late Dale Earnhardt.

The 27-year-old will have a reason to remember this year’s event in twenty years.

Dillon restarted fourth in an overtime finish, but gained the lead after making contact with Aric Almirola, which sent the Stewart-Haas Racing driver spinning.

The win is Dillon’s second in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Dillon now holds victories in two of the four “Crown Jewel” events. Dillon won the Coca-Cola 600 in 2017.

Dillon has proven to excel under pressure of the famous No. 3 in recent years, earning eight top-5s and 18 top-10 finishes since 2016.

No. 3 Ryan Blaney – Ryan Blaney dominated by leading 118 laps and winning Stage 2. The newest driver of Team Penske came back to earn a seventh place finish despite sustaining damage in two multi-car wrecks.

Blaney heads into Atlanta, where he has an average finish of 21.5, as the points leader. Can he improve his results, and will it be enough to keep the points lead over teammate Joey Logano?

No. 4 Michael McDowell – Michael McDowell found a new home at Front Row Motorsports after losing his ride to Kasey Kahne at Leavine Family Racing, but he picked up right where he left off with another stellar performance at a restrictor plate track.

McDowell finished ninth in his 250th start. It is his second straight top-10 at Daytona and sixth top-10 of his career.

McDowell wasn’t in contention for the win at the end, but remained mid-pack for majority of the race. He was as high as fifth and secured stage points in Stage 1 (sixth) and Stage 2 (fifth).

No. 5 Chris Buescher – Chris Buescher last scored a top-5 in August of 2016, when he finished fifth at Bristol. The JTG-Daugherty Racing driver quietly climbed inside the top-5 Sunday to earn his best finish at the 2.5-mile track.

Buescher scored a top-10 during the 2017 Coca Zero 400. He sits ninth in the points standings, 25 points behind the points leader.

Notables: Justin Marks earned his best career finish at Daytona with 12th place, one lap down from the leaders. Marks has four MENCS starts and led his first lap in the series on Sunday.

William Byron finished 23rd after spinning on Lap 190. Byron was also involved in a 9-car incident on Lap 60 that ended the day for Erik Jones, Ty Dillon, Daniel Suarez, and two-time Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson.

Danica Patrick was the victim of a multi-car wreck on Lap 102 and finished in the 35th position. The race was Patrick’s last NASCAR event. She is scheduled to participate in the Indy 500 to bring her racing career to an end.