Saving a set of sticker tires for a late-race trip to pit road – after his rivals had exhausted their supply of fresh rubber – pushed the reigning NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion to victory in Sunday’s Fan Appreciation 200 at Iowa Speedway.
Buescher took the lead from pole winner Ross Chastain on the first of two green-white-checker restarts at lap 204 and then held off the 20-year-old Ford driver to win his second series race of the season and sixth overall.
Chastain, who led a race-high 116 laps in pursuit of his first NASCAR national series victory, finished .486 seconds behind Buescher’s Chevrolet, which led only the final nine laps of overtime which stretched the 200-lap scheduled distance to 212 circuits.
Ty Dillon, nearly two laps behind early in the race due to an off-sequence pit stop under green, recovered to finish third ahead of Johnny Sauter and Darrell Wallace Jr.
German Quiroga, Matt Crafton, Jeb Burton, Erik Jones and Ryan Blaney completed the top 10.
Buescher cut Crafton’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship lead to 37 points with seven races remaining.
Because of tire limits mandated by NASCAR, Buescher and crew chief Mike Shelton concluded that tire conservation would be critical. The race’s first caution at lap 38 for Chase Elliott’s single-truck accident brought all but Dillon to pit road for service – and only Buescher exited without a tire change.
“I told Shelton in the hauler this morning, ‘don’t put a set on before lap 100 because I’m going to want them later,'” said Buescher in his post-race interview. “We were in a position to do it and it worked out.”
Buescher fell back to just outside the top 10 as the race passed the halfway mark. He took new tires after a debris caution at lap 136, which saw the leaders in for their final service.
Timothy Peters, who won the series’ first Iowa race in July, took the lead from Chastain on the ensuing restart with the pair running one-two until another caution – again for debris – slowed the field on lap 170.
That’s when what had been a fairly placid affair turned in an opposite direction.
Chastain, starting on the outside of Peters’ Toyota, led on the lap 174 restart. Teammates Jeb Burton and Brandon Jones crashed in Turn 4 to bring out another caution out lap 189.
Chastain’s Brad Keselowski Racing teammate Ryan Blaney, meanwhile, had advanced to second and took the lead when racing resumed on lap 195. Contact between Buescher and Peters – as the two fought for third – sent Peters into the outside wall and out of contention.
Blaney’s Ford, however, suffered a fuel pickup problem during the caution, giving the lead back to Chastain. Buescher, who restarted on the outside, surged slightly ahead to take the No. 1 spot as Brendan Gaughan and Joey Coulter tangled in Turn 1 to produce the race’s sixth caution.
Chastain expressed frustration – with himself – after losing to Buescher.
“I gave one away today,” he said. “James drove a great race and he had fresher tires.
“I don’t know how many more chances I’m going to get. This was my shot (at a first win).”