Sunday night at Darlington Raceway, rookie Chris Buescher took one more big step toward making the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Buescher didn't have a great night in the Bojangles' Southern 500, where he finished 17th in the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford. But crucially, he finished four positions ahead of David Ragan, his closest rival in the points standings.

With one race left in the Sprint Cup regular season, Buescher is 30th in points, 11 points ahead of Ragan. For Buescher to make the Chase, he has to hold onto 30th place after next Saturday's race at Richmond International Raceway.

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To that end, Buescher's Darlington finish helped his chances at advancing to NASCAR's playoff round.

"Yeah, from that side of things it was a good points night for our Love's Ford," Buescher said. "At the end of the night it wasn't a bad race for us. If we could have qualified and had a better (starting) spot maybe it would have been different."

It wasn't an easy night for Buescher or anyone else at Darlington.

"We worked hard on this thing all day and the team made good adjustments to get it rolling forward," said the rookie. "It isn't bad for our first Cup series race here in Darlington."

Asked if next weekend's race at Richmond will be the most pressure-filled of his career, Buescher added, "It definitely will be. I feel like we have a good cushion right now coming out of here. That is not necessarily comforting because we still have a lot of work to do."