BROOKLYN, Mich. — Parents always want what is best for their child, but Chris Buescher’s parents want something else for him in this roller-coaster season.
While the RFK Racing driver has had some strong results, it’s his stuntman-like escapades that have gained the most attention this year.
He was the first driver to roll a Next Gen car, tumbling 4 1/2 times in the Coca-Cola 600.
He remained in his car last weekend at Indianapolis after it caught fire. He came back from losing two laps to finish 10th.
“My parents sent me a text after that one,” Buescher said Saturday. “They said, ‘You might deserve hazard pay.'”
It has been that type of a season for Buescher, who also has missed a race after testing positive for COVID-19. Buescher enters Sunday’s Cup race at Michigan International Speedway (3 pm ET on USA Network) needing a win to make the playoffs.
He’s been strong on the road courses this season, but didn’t have much of a chance last week after his fire.
Buescher said white smoke came from the right side door when he entered pit road for a scheduled stop shortly before the end of the opening stage.
Contact in the door area earlier in the race bent the exhaust pipes. The car’s fumes burned part of the door.
“I was kind of putting up with it,” Buescher said. “When we hit pit road, I think just the slowing down and probably the (pipe’s) backfire, the flames coming out as we hit pit road, finally set it ablaze.”
Buescher said the smoke turned black inside the car as he went down pit road. He said he was a “split second” from exiting the car before the fire was extinguished.
“We’re not quitters,” Buescher said. “We’re going to keep after it and get all we can every week.”
Buescher’s car wasn’t the only one to burn last weekend at Indy. Joey Logano also had a fire in his car at the end of the race.
“It seems like the same thing that happened to my car happened to Buescher’s car with the exhaust getting pushed back into the rocker and essentially melting the panels around there and then lighting the foam up inside the door,” Logano said Saturday at Michigan. “So, obviously, we need to look into that. Learning curves with the race car.
This isn’t the first time there has been a fire inside a car this year. Tyler Reddick had a similar situation during a test at Kansas in March. Reddick said his issue came from the exhaust making contact with the underbody or the rocker panels. It created a hole and sent debris and dust into his eyes.
“It was pretty awful to breathe,” Reddick said.
Asked about Buescher staying in his car through that and it being extinguished, Reddick said: “That’s a mentally tough guy.”
Buescher didn’t want to get out of the car last week because of how strong it was.
“We’ve had three months now of really good speed, great improvements at RFK,” said Buescher, who has three top 10s in the last seven races. “We don’t have much to show for it. We keep talking about highlights that are not race wins even though we’ve been very competitive with it.
“It’s tough. We can see it internally, where we’re at, but it’s hard for most race fans to see it when they’re looking at the results and we’re not winning races yet. I think the top 10 was a big show at Indy of what we were capable of.”