by Ryan Isley
The NASCAR Xfinity Series is coming to Ohio, and for point leader Chris Buescher, a trip to the Buckeye State probably couldn’t have come at a better time.
After a bit of a struggle where Buescher failed to tally a top-10 finish for a span of five races, the 22-year-old finished third at Watkins Glen last week to solidify his lead in the standings over Ty Dillon and defending series champion Chase Elliott. He leads both drivers by 24 points.
Buescher needed that strong finish last at Watkins Glen, where he finished ahead of both Dillon and Elliott for the first time in four races. In fact, both Dillon and Elliott had finished higher than Buescher in three straight races to cut into the points lead.
He will now take that momentum to Ohio as he returns to the site of his first career first career Xfinity Series win. Buescher led 25 laps at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course when he took the checkered flag in the 2014 Nationwide Children’s Hospital 200. Mid-Ohio just might be the place for Buescher to find victory lane once again and start to put his stamp on a possible Xfinity Series championship. In 2014, Buescher took home the checkered flag with Elliott finishing fourth and Dillon 19th.
Putting together back-to-back solid races and finishing ahead of Elliott and Dillon is exactly what Buescher needs, as the last eight races have seen 2014 series champion Elliott make up ground on the championship race. In the last eight races, Elliott has picked up 13 points on Buescher and 22 points on Dillon, while Dillon has lost nine points to Buescher. Elliott has 289 points in those eight races, Buescher has 275 and Dillon has 267. Dillon is the only one of the three who has had a finish outside the top-20 when he finished 26th at Daytona.
While Buescher is the only driver in the Xfinity Series who is eligible for the series championship that has multiple wins, he has been able to hold onto his lead despite just three top-5s and three top-10s in the eight races since his last win at Dover on May 30. In contrast, Elliott has six top-10s and two top-5s in those eight races, while Dillon has five top-10s and two top-5s in that span.
This is Buescher’s second season as a full-time driver in the Xfinity Series, as is the case with both Dillon and Elliott as well. His second season has been a leap from a year ago, as he has two wins compared to one last season and nine top-5s compared to five in 2014. His average finish this year is more than four spots higher, coming in at 8.4 this season against 12.8 last season and he has led nearly three times as many laps in 2015 as he did in 2014 (147 to 55). All of that and he still has 13 races left on the schedule.
If Buescher is to hold off Dillon and Elliott for the series championship, he will need to keep up what he has started this season. And a big part of that will be to try and duplicate what he did last year in Ohio.