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Chris Buescher races to 20th-place finish in first career NASCAR Sprint Cup start

Auto Club 400 - Practice

Auto Club 400 - Practice

Getty Images

A lot had to happen over a five-week stretch for Chris Buescher to find himself starting in his first-career Sprint Cup race.

What started with Kyle Busch’s injuries in the Xfinity Series race at Daytona last month ended with Brett Moffitt stepping out of the No.34 Ford at Front Row Motorsports and replacing Brian Vickers in the No. 55 Toyota this weekend after Vickers suffered a recurrence of blood clots.

The unexpected events and the fact he had never raced at Auto Club Speedway didn’t phase the 22-year-old Xfinity Series regular. Buescher finished on the lead lap in 20th and earned $93,860 for his efforts.

“It was a lot of fun,’' Buescher said. “I can’t thank Front Row Motorsports enough to give me this opportunity and for Roush Fenway Racing to allow me to go do it. It’s the kind of race track I wanted to make my Cup debut at – some place that the pace falls off, the tires wear down and you’re able to really hustle it and race late into a run and this was just that.”

Buescher started 33rd and said he started to get comfortable around halfway point of the 209-lap race. He experienced confusion during the race over where he was in relation to the Lucky Dog and wavearounds.

“People (were) pushing you around trying to show you who is boss,” Buescher said. “After we got 100 laps in, I just started to feel a lot better and started settling into a run where we were comfortable and a lot like our Xfinity race we were able to find a place and keep moving forward with that.”

Coming to the checkered flag after two green-white-checkered sequences, Buescher had no idea how things would wind up for his inaugural start.

“I just knew I had to beat a couple guys around us and tried everything we could,” Buescher said.

Trying everything ensured that Buescher finished ahead of veterans Clint Bowyer, Casey Mears and AJ Allmendinger.

Among the takeaways for Buescher was the differennce in downforce and grip between the cars in the Xfinity and Cup Series.

“Restarts were tough because I didn’t realize how far you could push it, how hard you could really drive the car,” he said. “After we figured that out, our restarts got better the last half. It’s always those little things, and I don’t know if this is my last Cup start for the year or if we’ve got a couple on the way, but, regardless, this is a lot of information to jot down in a notebook and remember for my next Cup start.”

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