Chris Buescher brought it home Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway to clinch his first NASCAR Xfinity Series championship in his second season, finishing 11th in the Ford EcoBoost 300. Buescher capped off a consistent season that saw him score two victories and 11 top-five finishes to win the title ahead of Chase Elliott.
“When everybody is willing to do it, they have that drive and everybody is happy and working together, it puts together an awesome team that has the will power to go do this,” Buescher said post-race. “It was hard but we did it better than anybody else and that’s why we get to sit here right now.”
From rookie underdog in 2014 to series champion in 2015, Buescher gave team owner Jack Roush his third NXS title in five years.
“You have to win the races when you can and you have to minimize the points loss on the day you cant be your best,” Roush said of the current non-Chase format in the Xfinity Series. “Chris was on his game this year, Scott [Graves] the crew chief was on his game.”
Behind the stage of championship confetti stood Kyle Larson, who grabbed the exciting win in his No. 42 Chevrolet over Austin Dillon. Leading a race-high 118 laps, Larson won for the third time in his 75-race NXS career and for the first time in 2015.
“This is definitely my favorite racetrack on the circuit by far, at least for the Xfinity Series,” Larson said. “I was close to winning [in] my rookie season here in 2013, about 50 feet short of winning it last year. And then this year, once again we had a very fast car and was able to led the most laps again. Almost gave it away again on a late-race restart.”
The race for the top spot kept fans on their toes as Larson battled Kyle Busch in the early to middle stages before Busch was given a pit-road penalty and later crashed off turn 4.
“I’m glad I didn’t run out of time, because I’ve been wanting to win here for a few years now,” Larson said.
Dillon first got the lead following the final restart with 16 laps remaining. With five laps to go, Larson finally caught and made the winning pass on Dillon.
“It’s intense,” Dillon said of riding the outside wall. “I knew what I had to do there with five to go and he was only a car length back. I knew I had to try it. I hadn’t been very good at it the whole race and my line wasn’t going to get it done. Threw caution to the wind, released the brake pedal, hit the wall, he passed me and that’s the end of the race.”
Attempting to change his line to keep the lead, Dillon said he believed Larson “was coming either way.”
“I knew he was coming and I had to try and take his line away,” he said. “I think he was coming either way. I was glad I blistered him on the restarts, that was fun.”
The quick pace of the duo surprised Scott Graves, crew chief for Buescher.
“It surprised me,” Graves, who won his first NXS title, said. “We haven’t seen that in a while. To see two cars just be that dominant. It surprised me for sure. I didn’t think we would be in that position where we would be a lap down so that did catch us a little off guard.”
Daniel Suarez won Rookie of the Year honors with eight top-five and 18 top-10 finishes.
“It’s been a long journey so far,” Suarez said. “2015, we have as a goal early in the year to try and get the Rookie of the Year. Trying to be strong, trying to learn and trying to be contending for some wins. We didn’t win, but we were close several times.”
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