Buescher can clinch 1st NASCAR championship at Homestead
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) Chris Buescher understands why so many NASCAR fans love the drama of the winner-take-all championship format set up for the Sprint Cup season finale.
In the second-tier Xfinity Series, a champion is still determined via a season-long points system. Might it be a time for a Chase for the Sprint Cup championship type of system for Xfinity?
''I think it would be really good for our series,'' Buescher said.
Buescher doesn't care as much about how the points are calculated as long as the final number crowns him a champion.
As long Buescher avoids any big wrecks and doesn't suffer from a busted part, he can clinch the Xfinity championship if he finishes 13th or better Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Buescher holds an 18-point lead over defending series champion Chase Elliott, a 22-point edge over Ty Dillon and 24 points over Regan Smith.
''If I told you there was no pressure, I would be lying to you,'' Buescher said.
Buescher has two wins in 32 starts this season driving for team owner Jack Roush and hasn't finished worse than 13th in the last 14 races. He could play it safe in the No. 60 Ford, though it's not really his style.
''We're not coming here to finish 13th. We're not coming here to just aim for that,'' he said. ''We're coming here to run like we did last year and get a top five out of this thing.
The 23-year-old Buescher, a former ARCA champion in his second full Xfinity season, was fifth at Homestead last season to cap a string of solid finishes that had him optimistic he could run for a championship in 2015.
''After the end of last year, I knew we were capable of getting to this point,'' he said. ''It was really good momentum and I knew if we could build on that coming into this year that we would definitely be in contention for this and we did just that.''
Elliott's situation for 2016 is secured, and infinitely more high profile. Elliott, the son of Hall of Fame inductee and 1988 NASCAR champion Bill Elliott, is taking over Jeff Gordon's ride in the No. 24 Chevrolet at Hendrick Motorsports. The team had to find a seat for him at NASCAR's top level or risk losing the 19-year-old to another organization in 2016.
''I'm not trying to fill his shoes or I'm not trying to be Jeff,'' Elliott said. ''I'm just trying to be me. Trying to do my job, and I feel like I have a great opportunity and a great race team to go do that with. I look at it as a great chance for me to try to improve and just do my job for my guys.''
His job this week doesn't include offering Buescher any tips on what it takes to win a title.
''He doesn't need my help,'' said Elliott, who had already wrapped up the championship by this time last season. ''He's done a good job, and those guys are deserving of the position they're in, and for the rest of us trying to catch up.'
There's at least one championship Chase that Buescher could do without. Hold off his closest rival, and Buescher can add his name to the likes of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Carl Edwards as series champions for Roush.
''We got a lot of advice from them and I think that's going to help a lot this weekend,'' he said.