(TOLEDO, Ohio - September 17, 2012) - After leaving Salem Speedway and the Kentuckiana Ford Dealers ARCA Fall Classic, Chris Buescher has an 85-point lead atop the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards standings, greater than any leading driver's advantage through 18 races this year.
Immediately following Lap 48 of Saturday's race, though, such a scenario might have been completely unexpected. Buescher (No. 17 Roulo Brothers Racing Ford) found himself caught up in a Turn 4 accident with substantial rear end damage, among other issues. Having taken the lead from Menards Pole Award presented by Ansell winner Chase Elliott on the first lap, Buescher had led every lap but found himself driving to pit road. He came back onto the track 15th, the last driver on the lead lap.
Buescher rebounded to finish second, though, passing Elliott with less than 10 laps to go to take the first spot behind race winner Tom Hessert. On a night when Buescher's championship hopes could have taken a severe blow, he actually improved his chances and made the race one to remember.
"It was too eventful for me, that's for sure," Buescher said. "We were really, really good right off the start there. Chase Elliott, I think he was really toying with me for the first couple laps, but he raced me really clean and I tried to return the favor there late in the race. It was a lot of fun with him so I've got to say thanks to him."
Buescher drove to pit road several times following the Lap 48 incident for service from his Roulo Brothers Racing crew. He did not need much time to pass his main championship rival, Frank Kimmel, who assumed second place behind Elliott after the initial crash. On Lap 87, with Kimmel falling back, Buescher passed him for seventh place. By the race's halfway point at Lap 100, Buescher was in the top five.
At night's end, Buescher had clinched the Bill France Four Crown and extended his lead over Kimmel by 25 points. Buescher has now gained 70 points on Kimmel in the last two races after leaving the Illinois State Fairgrounds with a 15-point advantage on August 19.
"The Roulo Brothers did a really nice job, but we ended up with a torn-up race car," he said. "We took second place and got the Four Crown, so that's always good, really good news for us. We still gained some points. All in all, these guys did a nice job battling back. We had our radiator leaking and lost water pressure there. It took everything we could do to keep it cool, so it was a very nice job. I just wish we could have gotten a Ford in Victory Lane here."
Now, one week and two races in October will decide the ARCA Racing Series title. The October 14 event at the DuQuoin (Ill.) State Fairgrounds and the October 19 season finale at Kansas Speedway place Buescher at tracks where last season he finished first and second, respectively.
"We need to do what we've been doing," he said. "We're showing up with fast cars every week and it's showing. This was about the roughest night we've had in a long time and we ended up second, so we're doing the right things. We're trying really hard. We just need to get a sponsor on this car to help out."
All Top-Fives for Buescher in Four Crown Run: With his second-place finish at Salem Speedway, Chris Buescher clinched the Bill France Four Crown Award over Frank Kimmel and Alex Bowman. Buescher earned 765 race points in the competition.
The award, depictive of the series' versatility, is a separate point fund that tests drivers on four very different tracks. This year's Bill France Four Crown included events in four different months on the calendar: the June 15 race at Michigan International Speedway; the July 1 road course event at New Jersey Motorsports Park's challenging Thunderbolt Raceway; the August 19 dirt mile race at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield; and Saturday's short track showdown at Salem.
The award is certainly important for whom it's named after - Bill France Sr. - but also for what it represents: variety. No other touring series requires drivers to compete on as many different styles of tracks as the ARCA Racing Series does. The award truly captures the essence of ARCA competition.
Buescher won at Michigan just weeks before finishing third at New Jersey. His low point was still a strong fifth-place finish in Springfield. By earning top-fives in each Four Crown race, Buescher became the first Four Crown winner to accomplish that feat since Parker Kligerman took two wins and two runner-up finishes to win the 2009 prize.
Kimmel was the only other driver to drive to top-10 finishes in every Four Crown race. He finished 40 points behind Buescher. Bowman was third, 55 points from the top. Spencer Gallagher (-150) and Brennan Poole (-180) rounded out the top five.
Pictured: Gary Roulo, Chris Buescher (with Four Crown plaque), Russell Roulo, David Roulo