LEXINGTON, OH, August 17, 2014 – For one afternoon, Lexington, Ohio was Hollywood on wheels.
Picture this: a six-year-old boy named Luke suffering from Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia who was one of 10 Patient Champions who called for “drivers to start their engines.”
Then a rookie driver linked with said boy in the “official” car, the No. 60 Mustang with the official sponsor Nationwide Children’s Hospital on its side panels.
Last but not least; an unheard of 38-lap run to victory without a pit stop.
And so it went Saturday, August 16 in the Nationwide Children’s Hospital 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course as rookie Chris Buescher won his first NASCAR race in only the second edition of the event.
The native of Prosper, TX and his crew chief Scott Graves certainly didn’t plan to run for the checkered flag when Buescher came into the pits on the 52nd lap of the 90-lap Nationwide Children’s Hospital 200. Better still, they could not have known that it also would prove to be a winning strategy. Somehow, some way, the rookie coaxed his car across the finish line to win the Nationwide Children's Hospital 200, the season finale for Mid-Ohio.
Buescher is the third rookie to win a NASCAR Nationwide Series race in 2014 and the 14th NASCAR driver in the Series to climb to the highest step on the podium. He has been coming on of late, with three top-10 finishes in the previous five races, which moved him up to 15th from 40th in the driver’s championship.
Graves delivered a major message to his driver on Lap 88, two laps shy of the checkered flag with Buescher holding a two-second lead and hanging on by his fingernails.
"Not going to lie, Scott about had my nerves shot there at the end," said Buescher during a post-race press conference. "We were trying to save all we could there knowing that we were trying to keep the distance on the guys behind us."
As it turned out, the mid-race fuel tank mathematics were off, just a tad.
"It was cool to pull it off and have plenty left over for a good burnout at the end," said Buescher. “I’m pretty sure that our Patient Champion Luke Benner was proud of his team on this day.”
Two famous racing names come together in Trans-Am 2: Andretti and Mid-Ohio
Adam Andretti held off Ron Keith and Joe Ebben over the final 13 laps of the 45-lap race to take the TA2 class, while Doug Peterson, the series’ currents points’ leader, held off Joe Ebben’s Dad, Cliff, to win the TA class.
It was Peterson’s fourth win of 2014, increasing his points total to 201 and opening up a 34-point lead on Simon Gregg, who had 168 points at the conclusion of the race and with Amy Ruman of Munroe Falls OH, another point back at 167. Ruman, who led briefly at the original green flag, finished a disappointing 41st after a last-minute adventure off track.
In TA3, 16-year-old Floridian Ernie Francis Jr. chalked up his fourth series win of the season and wrested the series points lead from defending champion Chuck Cassaro.
And finally, Lee Saunders won the TA3 International class, his second victory in just two Trans-Am starts.
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