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JUN 9, 2024 | Ford Performance Staff

McDowell and Buescher Post Top-5 Finishes at Sonoma

McDowell Mustang on the track

SONOMA, Calif. - Michael McDowell and Chris Buescher led the Ford charge on Sunday at Sonoma Raceway with both drivers posting top-five finishes, but under different circumstances either driver could have ended up in victory lane.

After Joey Logano won the pole and led the first 16 laps, the race took a series of twists and turns as cautions dominated the opening two stages and spoiled Logano’s strategy. The two-time champ pitted from the lead under green, but that ended up going awry when he got caught up in a multi-car accident shortly after returning to the track.

McDowell finished sixth in Stage 1 and was obviously fast, but he became a victim on lap 39 and got sent into the tire barriers with a pair of other Fords in Austin Cindric and Noah Gragson. That took away all of McDowell’s track position and forced him to drive through the field, which he did.

Buescher started 26th, but pit strategy enabled him to run the entire second stage without pitting and win when everyone else had to stop. He inherited the lead once again with 27 laps to go and then did his best to hold on with older tires. That proved to be his undoing as Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson were able to run him down and eventually pass him with nine laps remaining.

Larson passed Truex shortly thereafter and went on to win the race with McDowell and Buescher finishing second and third, respectively. Ryan Blaney was seventh and Todd Gilliland 10th as four Ford drivers ended up in the top 10.

Buecher led the second-most laps on the day (32) while Logano and Blaney also had turns at the front of the field.

Cam Waters made his Cup Series debut driving a third Mustang for RFK Racing. The Australia Supercars driver got off to a good start and climbed to 16th at the end of Stage 1, but he suffered minor damage in a multi-car accident in turn 11 and then eventually retired from the race due to a transaxle issue and finished 35th.

The NASCAR Cup Series will head to Iowa Speedway for the first time in history next weekend as NBC takes over the second half of the season from a broadcast perspective. The Cup race is scheduled for Sunday night at 7 p.m. ET and can be seen on USA or heard on MRN and SiriusXM radio.

1st – Kyle Larson
2nd – Michael McDowell
3rd – Chris Buescher

4th – Chase Elliott
5th – Ross Chastain
6th – AJ Allmendinger
7th – Ryan Blaney
8th – Tyler Reddick
9th – Christopher Bell
10th – Todd Gilliland

13th – Brad Keselowski
18th – Ryan Preece
21st – Joey Logano
22nd – Austin Cindric
23rd – Kaz Grala
25th – Harrison Burton
26th – Noah Gragson
32nd – Josh Berry
33rd – Justin Haley
34th – Chase Briscoe
35th – Cam Waters

MICHAEL MCDOWELL, No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford Mustang Dark Horse –
“The first stage went well for us, just kind of executing our plan and our strategy, but, unfortunately, when we got towards the back on that restart and they piled up in the esses we just got drove into and into the barriers. That really hurt our track position because then we had to come back down pit road and fix the damage and that kind of killed our chances of restarting up front when it did cycle out, but, fortunately, we had a really fast Love’s Travel Stops Ford Mustang. We were able to get about half of them back before the end of Stage 2, and then the last stage we just had to fight really hard to get track position. I feel like we had the speed today, which it hurts. It hurts to finish second. We desperately need a win to make the playoffs, but I’m proud of the effort and proud of the speed we had, but just a little bit short.”

“I was pushing pretty hard. I don’t know how much more I could have got. I needed him to battle with the 19 a little bit more and the 17 because when he came out on new tires, he was just quicker than us. I couldn’t hold him off, but I knew in the long run we could probably balance out and have a little bit of speed. Our long run was our strength, so I don’t know. I have to go back and watch it, but it’s just a shame.”

“Yeah, definitely. It’s great to be disappointed with second, but that’s just the way this playoff format is. A win is so important and we came up a little bit short.”

CHRIS BUESCHER, No. 17 Ford Mustang Dark Horse –
“It was really good strategy on the day and an awesome finish. I wasn’t quite able to hold the lead there and that bums me out. I was trying. I’ve got to be better and ultimately figure out how to make that last a little bit longer, but our team did a really nice job. To start where we did and finish right here at the front with our Ford Mustang. I’m really proud of that. Just another close one at the end of the day.”

“Ultimately, we started deep in the field and it was gonna be hard to make it work, but Scott and our group did a fantastic job. They played it well and got us up front. We got a stage win, a playoff point, but ultimately there at the end I wasn’t able to hold on. If that was just a little bit of tire difference late in the run or how hard I ran at the beginning I’m not sure. It’s just a really solid day considering where we started. That’s a ton of positions gained on the day and really, really good.”

CAM WATERS, No. 60 AUKUS/ Ford Mustang Dark Horse –
“I had so much fun. This weekend and the whole experience coming to a road course in a Cup car was sensational. I had so much fun and I can’t thank everyone enough for making that happen. The start of the race, I took it easy the first couple of laps and then I pressed on and tried to pass some cars. The car was super fast. It could absolutely make some ground passing cars, which was really good. The cautions fell our way a bit and I guess effectively we were right up there somewhere. It was all looking really good.”

“I think there were three or four cars going into one corner it just was never going to work, unfortunately. That’s part of racing and not a lot I could have done about it, I guess. It is what it is. We were looking really good and it’s a shame what happened, but I’m not going to let that put a damper on my weekend.”

“I had massive steering damage, which we tried to fix, and then someone else got into me in 11 and bent the right-front. It was too much to keep going.”

“It’s a bucket list thing for me to come over and do one of these races. Part of it was doing the Truck stuff on the ovals and that was absolutely awesome, and then to do a road course in a Cup car, which is a car that is similar to what we race at home, was so cool. And to have all of my family and some friends here was super special. I can’t thank enough all the people that made this happen – Ford, RFK,, Aukus and all of our other partners.”

“I definitely want to do it again, so hopefully I can get the call up and hopefully something doesn’t clash on the track and I can come over and have another crack.”

CHASE BRISCOE, No. 14 Ford Performance Racing School Ford Mustang Dark Horse –
“It was definitely kind of wild from the get-go, just guys kind of driving through each other and everything else. It was a wild day. For us, it was anything that could go wrong kind of went wrong between getting spun out and just not having our balance really that great, and then we had a water pressure issue and then there at the end the rear end just blew up, so it was not a great day for us, especially when we kind of need a good one. It’s unfortunate and now we’ll go on to Iowa, which is probably my favorite racetrack, so we’ll try to regain some of these lost points.”

NASCAR XFINITY Series (June 8 – Sonoma)

  • Cole Custer was the top finishing Ford with a ninth-place finish at Sonoma.
  • Custer continues to lead the series standings by 12 points and tops all drivers with 11 top-10 finishes.
  • Riley Herbst finished 13th and sits seventh in the season standings.
  • The series returns next weekend to Iowa Speedway for the first time since 2019 with a race on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, USA, MRN Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).