Kiselovsky knew Boecher was “someone we can build around”

But this one was different. The qualifiers opened with Eric Jones His third win of his career at Darlington came as a sure surprise, and it was the perfect time to see the iconic No. 43 once again at Victory Lane for the first time since 2014.

in kansas next week, Bubba Wallace He scored his second win of his career and third in 23XI Racing since joining the Cup Series last year, another impressive achievement.

However, the surprise winner this past weekend in Bristol looks different. Chris Bucher He hadn’t won a race in over six years, and that was a story on its own, but what makes this qualifying spoiler different from the previous two years? For me, that’s who he was driving.

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A look back at Roche’s former glory

Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing, as it is now known, has been around for a long time. The name has changed quite a bit over the years, but Jack Roche has been there since the beginning. Once upon a time, they dominated the track at trophy level. While winning back-to-back titles in 2003 and 2004, they also racked up 14 victories in 72 races. In 2005, they won 15 of the 36 races in the schedule, finishing second, third and fourth in the championship while losing a third title in a row.

They were a force, at one point sending out five full-time entries.

By 2015, they enjoyed 14 consecutive multi-win seasons. It’s often been spoken of in the same way Hendrick Motorsports is today – a true giant in the industry.

But after dozens of victories over the years, they took no wins in 2015 and 2016. They were able to win two high-speed races in 2017, courtesy of Ricky Stenhouse Jr., but it took more than five years for them to win again.

new project

This brings us to 2022. Previous Cup Series Champion Brad Kiselowski He left a comfortable position at Team Penske to take on the driver/owner role on the once prominent team. Now only making a couple of entries, and considered a welcome surprise each time they were able to advance to the front, Keselowski hoped to return the Roush to their former glory.

One of the things he inquired about upon joining was regarding Chris Bucher himself, and how long RFK held him for. Keselowski has been keeping an eye on the young driver dating back to at least 2015 and even wanted to see him in the Wood Brothers’ #21 machine in the not too distant past.

Chris Bucher, RFK Racing, Ford Mustang Fastenal, Brad Keselowski, RFK Racing, Ford Mustang Castrol Cooler Alternators

Chris Bucher, RFK Racing, Ford Mustang Fastenal, Brad Keselowski, RFK Racing, Ford Mustang Castrol Cooler Alternators

Photo: John Harrelson/NKP/ motorsports pictures

“I went with him to a Ford driving school somewhere around 2015 and I was blown away by his talent and his feel for the car,” RFK Racing co-owner said. “I felt like he didn’t have the support system around him to be successful with the teams he was with.

“It kind of felt like a hidden gem of a free agent that had not been properly discovered and felt that way for a few years. So yeah, first thing – it was literally the first thing I did when I signed the papers at RFK. The next step after signing my papers was to make an offer in front of him. To give him a contract extension. I thought he was someone we could build around and get results, and today he clearly shows that that is the case.”

Keselowski has a notable history of exploring natural talent. As a team owner in the Truck Series, several future cup winners passed through his organization as they climbed the ladder. The list included Ryan Blaney, Ross Chastain, Tyler Riddick, Austin Cendrick and Chase Briscoe.

He thought Buescher could get it done, too, despite his only cup win in a short rain (or fog) race at Pocono over half a decade ago.

Although it was just a hot race, the team swept the duels at Daytona to open the new season. Since then, it’s been an uphill battle with the Buescher Column at Dover being one of the few bright spots. During the struggles, there were several moments — sparks or rays of hope, if you will. Buescher finished second at Sonoma, and fought for the win in Richmond.

None of the drivers made qualifying, but the work continued. In a year with so many variables and a diverse field of winners, anything was possible. And in Bristol, Buescher finally made the win a reality.

Race winner Chris Boecher, RFK Racing, Ford Mustang

Race winner Chris Boecher, RFK Racing, Ford Mustang

Photography: Matthew T Thacker/NKP/ motorsports pictures

It was a bittersweet night, as it was Kiselovsky himself who took the lead in the race with just over 100 laps. He drove away until a malfunction on the right front tire dashed his hopes of winning.

But Buescher was there to pick up the baton, and after a two-tire call on the last leg, he was able to fend off all opponents and take victory for RFK Racing. It was a special moment for everyone involved, and perhaps the beginning of something else.

“I’ll tell Chris, he’s done such a great job this year and he’s been growing,” Keselowski said. “I’m really proud to work with him and see that, and his focus is at the highest level. He deserves a lot of recognition. It’s not an easy race to win. It wasn’t. But it’s a big race to win for your career. The Bristol Night Race is a race where the champions win, I think His growth this year shows that it can be.

“It’s a big moment for him and a big moment for our company to be able to win races. It’s really very important at this level. You really aren’t a fit if you can’t win races. If you’re not fit, you can’t have sponsors. You have sponsors, you can’t go to the racetrack every weekend. We need to win. We need to win for our partners.”

Building towards the future

Keselowski’s vision includes doubling RFK’s current size, which means he wants to bring it back to four full-time entries. They downsized from five to four cars full-time after the 2009 season, from four to three cars after 2011, and finally became a two-car team in 2016.

“This has been our goal all along,” he explained. “Before you can get into a four-car team, you have to get into a three-car team. Before you can get into a three-car team, you have to fit in as a two-car team. For us, again, The importance is to win races, multiple races a year with all of your cars and compete for the qualifiers.

“Obviously we’re not in qualifying with any of our cars, so we have more work to do. But our stated goal internally is to get back to being a four-car team. That won’t happen if you’re not winning races and you’re not relevant as a team of four. two cars.

“This is a good step forward for us. We still have a long way to go. We need to be able to win multiple races a year. But before you can do that, you have to win the first race. Not taking anything away from today.”

Race winner Chris Boecher, RFK Racing, Ford Mustang

Race winner Chris Boecher, RFK Racing, Ford Mustang

Photo: John Harrelson/NKP/ motorsports pictures

It was a bold choice for Kiselovsky to leave the comfort of a race-winning, championship-contender organization like Penske, hoping to build something with Roush. Bristol was not the end of their journey. It was one step on a long road back to relevance. The journey was difficult, but nothing worth doing is easy at all, they say.

Yes, I mean, it hurts, said Kiselovsky, but anything worth doing in life hurts. “It’s a bit like a workout. I’m up into the weight class here and I have to build more muscle and get as good on the track as I have on the track.

“There has been a lot of room for growth within the company. We’ve made significant investments to try to get this thing to where it can win, and when you make those investments you want to get a result out of it, and it’s really important that you get those results when you make them. .

“There was a bit of a delay, some of that — one of our biggest problems is that there are a lot of supply chain issues that probably affected us as much as everyone else this year, or more, and we’re just now starting to make some of those investments, and they’re paying off. “.

And who knows, maybe the 20th different winner of the 2022 season is just a sixth-placed Boecher teammate…

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