DOVER, Del. — When racing pundits were making their NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship predictions at the start of the season, it's doubtful that Chris Buescher made anyone's top 16.
Nevertheless, Buescher defied the odds and qualified for the Chase on the strength of an unlikely victory in the rain-shortened Aug. 1 race at Pocono.
But the opening two events of the playoff didn't go the way the driver of the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford would have liked. Buescher was 28th at Chicagoland and 30th at New Hampshire to fall into last place in the Chase standings, 30 points below the cut line.
To avoid elimination when the Chase field is cut from 16 drivers to 12, Buescher almost certainly needs a victory in today's Citizen Soldier 400 at Dover International Speedway (2 p.m., NBCSN) to reach the next round.
To Buescher, surprisingly, that means a stress-free weekend at the Monster Mile.
"We look at Dover as the last race of this round, and we really don't have anything to lose," Buescher said. "Chicago and Loudon weren't the races that we wanted to have, and we come into Dover, one of my favorite racetracks.
"I'm excited to get on track. This should be a place where we can really have a good run and see if we can advance to that next round. It's going to be tough at this point, but this is probably our best race track out of this round, so I'm excited to get going."
In his only previous Sprint Cup start at the Monster Mile — a wreck-filled war of attrition on May 15 — Buescher finished 18th, four laps down. But in four NASCAR Xfinity starts at Dover, Buescher, the 2015 series champion, has one victory, three top 10s and a worst finish of 11th.
Xfinity: Rain washed out the Drive Sober 200 Saturday, so there will be a doubleheader today at Dover. The second-tier NASCAR race is scheduled to start at 10 a.m. on CNBC, followed by the Sprint Cup race.
Formula One: Lewis Hamilton put himself in the best position to wrest back the points lead by claiming the pole for the Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang. The two-time defending world champion edged teammate and title rival Nico Rosberg by 0.4 seconds.
Trucks: Tyler Reddick earned his first series victory of the season at the DC Solar 350 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Reddick led 70 of 146 laps and edged Daniel Hemric by 1.404 seconds.
NHRA: Leah Pritchett (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) led rain-shortened qualifying for today's Dodge Nationals in Reading, Pa.