PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Chris Buescher had stripped his firesuit to his waist and was off to another photo opp when a street vendor near the Rocky Balboa statue shouted for him to stop.
The man hawking Rocky T-shirts recognized the outfit of every NASCAR driver — though the not man wearing one.
"Sign this, NASCAR driver," said the man, after securing a pen and notebook. "Whatever your name is."
Buescher smiled and graciously signed an autograph, his name now known to a new fan.
Buescher's name is stamped just as permanently in the NASCAR history book as the 2015 Xfinity Series champion.
Now come the offseason spoils for his racing reward.
The 23-year-old Buescher hit a Philadelphia Eagles game, saw the Liberty Bell ("I swear I didn't break it! Haha," he tweeted), toured Independence Hall, sampled cheesesteaks and, yes, ran the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art well known to anyone who's seen "Rocky" and that famous training run by Sylvester Stallone.
First, he needed a little coaching on the purpose of his jog.
"I have not actually seen the movies," he said. "I'm ashamed to say it."
Buescher reaped his biggest reward last week when he signed a deal to drive the No. 34 Ford for Front Row Motorsports in the Sprint Cup series. Buescher made six Cup starts in 2015, never finishing better than 20th. His preference was to defend his championship in the second-tier NASCAR series. Instead, he'll basically spend 2016 as the fourth Jack Roush driver because of a shared technical alliance between the organizations.
"It can be a good deal," Buescher said. "Maybe a little sooner than I hoped. But you've got to take it, right?"
Buescher, winner of two races with 11 top five finishes, said he was not signed for a full 36-race season and still wanted to run eight to 12 Xfinity races. He wasn't sure Front Row would field a second car in 2016.
"It's way too early in the process and it wasn't supposed to be announced yet," he said. "There should be a second car but they're still working everything out."
Front Row fielded three entries in 2015 and David Gilliland and Brett Moffitt also drove for the team. With Carl Edwards gone, Roush struggled and failed to place a car in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. Greg Biffle was 20th in the standings, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was 25th and Trevor Bayne 29th.
"The Cup performance is not where we'd like it to be," Buescher said. "I guarantee you, there's nobody in the shop that's happy with where we're running right now. This is a good time for us to regroup."
Buescher said his Xfinity championship crew chief Scott Graves will join him at Front Row.
"Some parts of it are a little bit of a bummer," Buescher said. "Our team from last year is not my team for this year. You build a bond with those guys and awesome friendships and now Scott's the only one I'm going to be working with. That part is the worst part about it."
Buescher might even have one more championship run left in him this offseason — his girlfriend is pushing him to become a Carolina Panthers fan. He's attended two NFL games in his life, an Eagles-Panthers game and the Eagles' win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
He was in Philadelphia because Xfinity is Comcast's residential cable and Internet provider.
"I've been to more Eagles games than Panthers, which is kind of sad," he said.
He didn't mind when he left Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday with his own Eagles jersey and his car number, 60, on the back.
"That's pretty cool," he said. "There are definitely some things to like about this city."
Walking around with his championship trophy tops the list.