Chris Buescher hates role he played in Dale Jr. crash at Michigan
It's never a good feeling for a driver when they're involved in an incident that winds up injuring another competitor.
Unfortunately, that was the case for Chris Buescher -- and it just wasn't any competito, as he just happened to be involved in an accident that ultimately sidelined NASCAR's 13-time Most Popular Driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
During this season's first Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway in June, Buescher's car broke loose coming out of Turn 2 and tapped Earnhardt, which sent the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports into AJ Allmendinger before making hard contact with the outside wall.
It later was determined that caused the injury that ultimately led to Earnhardt pulling the plug on the 2016 season altogether. Earnhardt later reaggravated the injury which caused concussion-like symptoms two weeks later in another accident at Daytona.
Earnhardt has missed the last six Sprint Cup races because of the injury. Hendrick Motorsports announced on Friday that he would miss the remaining 12 races of the season as well.
Although it was just what Buescher described as a "racing deal", that doesn't make it any easier for him to handle.
"It's tough for me to know that I was involved in that incident, and like I said I do hate that that's the case," said Buescher. "The way it all worked out, at the end of the day it was just a racing incident at Michigan. Obviously, it transitioned over the next little bit into something more serious ... I do hate it."
The Front Row Motorsports rookie is on the cusp of making the Chase for the Sprint Cup after winning a rain-shortened race at Pocono Raceway. Buescher is currently 30th in the points standings, but only seven points to the good ahead of David Ragan heading into Sunday night's Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
As Buescher readies himself for a potential championship run in his first full-time Sprint Cup season, he can't help but think of how hard it is for Earnhardt to sit on the sidelines when he could have been competing for this year's title as well.
"I think from Junior's standpoint, taking a step back and making sure his health is his priority, I think everybody has a lot of respect for that and the fact that's it's hard to step out of a race car when you're doing what you love and you're competing or a championship opportunity," Buescher said.
"I know it's not easy and I hate to be included in that conversation, but at the end of the day racing is going to have contact," he added. "It was obviously nothing intentional, it's just part of it."