Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Buescher Sees Contrast with Move to Cup

BRISTOL, Tenn. – In his newest song country music singer Tim McGraw advises, “always be humble and kind.”

Chris Buescher is considered one of the nicest guys in the NASCAR garage and his status as a rookie at the sport’s highest level is keeping him grounded. Buescher, 23, remembers the years spent watching some of the drivers he’s recently raced against compete at his home track, Texas Motor Speedway.

‘Neat’ is how he describes now being one of those 40 drivers in the field.

He’s doing his best to soak it all in and learn at the same time. But seven races into the season, things have not gone as well as Buescher was hoping they would with Front Row Motorsports. He’s 36th in points entering the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway with his best finish being a 26th at Las Vegas.

“I fully expect to learn lessons while I’m here,” Buescher told a small group of reporters on Friday afternoon. “I didn’t expect to come off the truck and be P5 on the board in our first practice. There is a lot of change here, and this is the best guys in the world doing what we do.”

After competing for and winning the XFINITY Series championship with Roush Fenway Racing last season, Buescher is now in an entirely different mindset. That includes the acceptance that he’s not racing for wins as he was a year ago and he’s not one of the best cars in the field.

Buescher has asked his team to be patient with him as he learns. Most of the No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops team is also new. Only a handful remained from those Buescher briefly worked with last season, and everyone is still getting used to each other.

However, crew chief Bob Osborne is a NASCAR veteran and spent many years at Roush Fenway, who Front Row has a technical alliance with this year. Buescher and teammate Landon Cassill said coming into the season they hope to compare with the three Roush cars.

“It’s a lot of new pieces of the puzzle. New team for myself; new crew chief; new organization,” Buescher said. “A lot of moving parts and it’s starting to come together to the point where we can operate a little bit quicker. You’re starting to see everyday activities, like getting ready for practice, where we’re ready earlier and earlier and more prepared. It’s going really well.”

Buescher isn’t taking this year lightly. Granted, it might be his first full season and Front Row Motorsports might not be one of the highest funded teams in the series, but that doesn’t mean there’s any less pressure.

“We’re here to perform; we’re in a Rookie of the Year battle with guys I’ve been racing my whole life, so we have to step it up and perform,” Buescher said. “We’re not where we want to be right off the truck this year, but we’re making progress in the right direction, and we’re going to get better. It’s going to take some time; I figured we’d have some growing pains, and I have a lot of learning to do as well.”

But as Buescher continues to adapt, he’s had to remind himself not to lose his confidence. Things might be tough right now, except every step forward in NASCAR means there’s something new to digest.

“In every series you run you work your way up to try and be at the top and when you get to the top you move onto the next (series), and you go right back down to the bottom and start over,” Buescher explained. “So, we’re just at that starting over phase. It’s still early in the season.”

EMAIL KELLY AT kelly.crandall@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement. 

Categories
Commentary

Jones, Buescher Remind Us That Talent Always Wins

HOMESTEAD, Fla. — One thing was made abundantly clear during the first two nights of NASCAR Championship Week at Homestead Miami Speedway. With champions and future stars like Erik Jones and Chris Buescher, the fate of NASCAR is in safe hands moving forward.

Much has been made over the past decade about ride-buyers and the inability for talented race car drivers without a tremendous amount of funding to continue advancing through the ranks towards the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

So let Jones and Buescher put an immediate stop to that rhetoric, because their stories are nothing short of the American Dream.

While neither driver grew up in poverty, both came from modest backgrounds and had to make the most of limited resources and very supportive families. Buescher grew up in the baseball and football heartland of Texas and simply wanted to drive race cars while Jones spent his entire youth chasing NASCAR dreams.

But like so many talented hot shoes before them, Buescher and Jones both reached the end of their initial funding and needed to catch an additional break for their careers to take off and reach the next level.

Buescher caught the eye of the Ragan family while driving Legend Cars in Texas, and eventually moved in with father Ken when son David moved out to race for Jack Roush.

“Ken got to a point where he said ‘we want to help you. We’d like to see you make this. I think you can do it. But you’ve got to move to Charlotte,'” Buescher recalled. “He told that to my family we just couldn’t do it. I had two younger sisters out there in Texas, both very-heavily involved in after-school activities. Their lives are out there. I can’t expect them to uproot for myself…

So Ken said, ‘well, why don’t you just move in with us?’ He said David just moved out so I could take his bedroom and just keep up with the yard and make sure it’s mowed and kept up nice, and he’ll do what he could do give me a hand.”

It was there that he too caught the eye of Roush and the veteran car owner inked him to a development contract, linking him with development program Roulo Brother Racing, where they won the 2012 ARCA Racing Series championship together.

Meanwhile, Jones story is well-documented.

The Michigander had won in Late Models across the Midwest and made a handful of ARCA Racing Series starts but had reached the ceiling of what he could do without a helping hand. It was then, in December of 2012, that he defeated Kyle Busch head-to-head in the Snowball Derby that dramatically altered the course of his destiny and steered him towards Kyle Busch Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing.

“He did a great job racing against me in Pensacola, with having the opportunity to race in the Snowball Derby together,” Busch said. “We had fun. I never would have expected to get beat by him in that race, but the last run of the race he did a great job. We raced clean, we raced hard, and he scored the victory.

“I knew he was going to be good that day, and I needed to get him signed up with Kyle Busch Motorsports and to have the opportunity to work with him.”

In both cases, the drivers had an abundance of talent but simply didn’t have the means to buy a ride at the highest level. On sheer aptitude, both Jones and Buescher were able to garner attention based on their results and were able to translate that very successful NASCAR careers.

It’s no secret that the 2008 recession severely damaged the sport for several years. Crippled by the economy, manufactures were no longer able to single-handedly support drivers and many talented youngsters were cut from potential opportunities as a result.

Landon Cassill, Stephen Leicht, Blake Feese and Boston Reid all example examples of similarly talented prospects who all found themselves in the right place but sadly at the wrong time.

But based on this weekend at Homestead, the times are a changing.

Jones and Christopher Bell has the backing of Toyota while Buescher is supported by Ford itself. Multiple drivers from modest means have development contracts and the talent-to-money ratio is better than it has been in a long time.

Jones and Buescher embody that spirit and will spearhead the next generation of self-made men that will dominate the sport for years to come.

The future is in good hands, indeed.

Read my other Championship Race Columns

Championship Pick and Analysis

Championship Week Opens with Respect, Not Mind Games

NASCAR Generates Big Game Environment with Chase Finale

Kyle Busch Silently Earning Homestead Favorite Title

EMAIL MATT AT matt.weaver@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattWeaverSBN

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, it’s owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement. 

Categories
Editorial

CALINOFF: What Did Jack Roush Just Say?

Car owners, drivers, crew chiefs and team management people have mastered the art of answering questions without answering questions.

Media folks will ask, let’s say, a car owner the status of a driver – usually during a year when their contract is up for renewal. Those questions are typically posed if performance has been sub-par, or a sponsor announces that they’re going in a different direction. Or even when team co-owners split and proclaim that their teams will continue to run independently in the future. We just learned that’s not exactly how it’s going to play out.

Nevertheless, the media has an obligation to at least try to keep the fans informed, so they have to ask.

But here’s what they get:

“Our intentions are to keep him,” or “We’re working through those details,” or “In a perfect world, nothing would change.” And then it comes. The standard follow-up: “But right now, we’re just focused on winning races and getting into the Chase.” In other words, that portion of the Q&A has concluded – what else ya got?

There are those who truly excel at the game.

Roger Penske is really good. He gives great answers to questions regarding Ryan Blaney’s future in the Sprint Cup Series – but we never get any more information about his plans than we had before we asked. It’s as if he doesn’t know.

But he knows.

Forbes estimates Penske’s net worth to be $1.34 Billion. And when you have a budding superstar in your stable – you’ll figure something out. He knows.

Another great player in this arena is Jack Roush.

Jack is smart. I mean, really smart. He’s quite the wordsmith, and his answers usually include verbs and adjectives that even smart people don’t understand.

Quick story:

I attended a meeting at the Roush Fenway shop years ago with a group of about ten people. Jack was on one of his rants – I don’t remember why – and used the word hubris. Glancing around the table I noticed that some were discreetly looking up the definition on their phones. Hell, I didn’t even know how to spell it let alone what it meant. I’ve since used it twice playing Scrabble.

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 8.13.03 PM

Anyway, here’s a good example of answering without answering.

During a recent segment of Sirius XM’s Dialed In, Jack was asked about his future plans for Buescher – the current points leader in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. He told show host, Claire B. Lang that the 22-year-old will be in a Sprint Cup Series car “sooner than later,” but added, “I stop short of saying it’s 2016, but there is a consideration, discussion going on about the prospect of getting him in a car. If not one of my cars, one of the other Ford cars that would be competitive and competing in 2016. He may very well be in one of my Sprint Cup cars. It’s just a matter of sponsorship and business considerations.”

Go read that again.

It may not be 2016, but it would be in a competitive car competing in 2016.

Anyway, it’s getting ready to happen again. Silly Season has begun, and the dominos are starting to fall.

Car owners, drivers and team management will face a barrage of media questions and give precise, eloquent answers that merely raise questions. It’s a vicious cycle.

So Jack, is Chris Buescher is headed to Cup? Will he race a full or partial schedule? Will he be farmed-out to another organization or will he replace someone in yours?

He probably won’t say. But he knows.

They always know.

Should Jack Roush Move Buescher to Cup?

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Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

NASCAR Young Guns Keeping Tabs on Kentucky Package

JOLIET, Ill. — Even though the much-hyped “Kentucky Package” will only apply to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the results and implications of the experiment are certainly being monitored by the young guns and top prospects currently enrolled in the XFINITY and Truck Series.

After all, if everything goes according to plan, this is the package that Chase Elliott, Chris Buescher and Erik Jones could all conceivably drive when they graduate to the highest levels of the sport.

Buescher has made only five Sprint Cup starts this year so he preceded his opinion with the disclaimer that he isn’t entirely qualified to offer opinions and analysis on that side of the garage. With that being said, he does believe the low downforce setting could be a good thing for fans and participants.

“It could be considered a victory for the sport,” Buescher told Popular Speed on Saturday. “I think it’s going to depend on if it truly does what NASCAR is hoping it will. If it goes out there and makes it more difficult, (some drivers) are going to wish they had kept their mouths shut.

“If it’s better, then they are going to love it. I’m not qualified to say exactly what’s going to fix it and if this is the answer, but this is really neat to see. If this makes the racing better now then it’s a win-win for everyone involved.”

The changes, intended to increase passing and track action, include cutting the spoiler to 3.5 inches (from 6), reduces the splitter extension to 25 inches (from 38) and reduces the overhang by 1.75 inches. In short, the package will make the cars looser in the corners — forcing these drivers to have to lift off the throttle more than ever before.

Like Buescher, Elliott has only competed in a handful of Sprint Cup races this season but has been around the garage long enough to have opinions on the “Kentucky Package.”

The second-generation star praised NASCAR officials for their willingness to aggressively work towards improving the racing product and is looking forward to seeing how the process plays out when the sport arrives at Kentucky Speedway on July 8.

READ MORE: Sprint Cup Drivers Debate Kentucky Package

“If anyone had the right answer, they would fix it immediately,” Elliott said. “Regardless of if this is a good change for the sport, we won’t know until we go try it so I think it’s a good thing that we’re going to try it.”

Elliott warned fans not to expect a quick fix and that the “Kentucky Package” likely represents the first step towards slowly improving the product over the next several years.

“I don’t know if it will completely fix it, but I hope it gives NASCAR a better idea of what direction we need to go,” Elliott added. “Like I said, I think the cars will be much different … If it’s a good direction, we’ll continue down that path and if it’s not, we’ll try something different and get ready for next season.”

Erik Jones has only been in NASCAR for three years but has personally witnessed a gradual decrease in passing opportunities across the three national tours during that span. He says the sport has become even more aero dependent during his brief time in the sport.

“When I first got to the Truck Series in 2013, it wasn’t that bad,” he said. “At least in the trucks, passing was okay. You could make passes last year too but then we went to a different panning in the front and that’s made it harder.”

He said the conditions in the Truck Series currently mirror those in the Cup Series based on his lone start in the No. 18 at Kansas.

“In the Cup Series when I ran that race, when I got to five car lengths behind someone, you couldn’t even run the same line. That’s tough on a driver obviously, if we’re both trying to run the preferred line. So I think these changes are a step in the right direction. There are things that needed to be done and changed.

“It’s good to see them being so proactive and even be willing to do something in the middle of the season because it’s not easy to do this. I’m sure the drivers will embrace it and hopefully it works.”

EMAIL MATT AT matt.weaver@popularspeed.com

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Categories
XFINITY

Chris Buescher Hoping for Success In Front of Hometown Crowd

(EXCLUSIVE) After finishing seventh in points in his rookie year, @Chris_Buescher is off to a great start this season as he currently sits second in points after the first five races of the season. If you compare this year to last season when Buescher failed to qualify for the season opener at Daytona International Speedway, he’s off to a good start this year.

“It’s been a great season so far,” Buescher commented. “Already this season, we have more top-fives than we had last year in the first half of the season last year, so I feel we’re doing great. We’ve had a lot of speed and ran strong solidly, and I’m excited about what we’ve been able to do so far this year.”

In the first five races this year, Buescher has scored three top-five finishes, highlighted by a runner-up at Daytona to teammate @driverRyanReed. Comparing the two seasons, Buescher says the improvement is based on more than one thing alone.

“From getting more experience, to working on having a good handling car over the long run,” he commented. “If you’re able to have a solid car underneath you for the whole run, you can make up ground as the week goes. We also worked on speed, as well, and I think everything is paying off.”

Buescher isn’t the only driver within the Roush Fenway Racing organization that is running strong, as teammates Reed, @BubbaWallace and @Elliott_Sadler currently are all sitting in the top eight in points. The young driver attributes that to how well the four of them are working together.

“I think the addition of Elliott to the team is huge,” he said. “With his experience, he’s able to bring leadership to the team and help us along the way. Also when we go to the tracks because he’s been there so many times, he’s able to point out lots of small things that help us all.Ryan returning this year is great, and it was huge to see him get his first win right off the top this year. He’s been great to work with as there’s a lot of things we can relate back and forth.

“Bubba has also been a good addition to the team. I remember coming up through the ranks, racing him in all different types of cars. Now we’re teammates and working together. It’s crazy to think how small the world is sometimes.”

With momentum on his side following a fifth place finish at Auto Club Speedway, Buescher heads to his home track  at Texas Motor Speedway.

“I’m excited for Texas this weekend,” the Prosper, Texas native said. “It’s always fun racing at your home track. I have a bunch of laps on the quarter mile on the inside, the 5/8 mile behind the track and the road course – just not a bunch on the big oval. We’ve been solid on the intermediate tracks this year, so I’m looking forward to this weekend.”

Looking at the 300 mile race, he says the key will be managing the track and his tires over the long-run with how much they fall off due to the aging asphalt.

“I think it will be a benefit as at the tracks where there’s been tire fall-off, we’ve been able to make up ground on the long runs,” he commented.

Beyond running the XFINITY event on Friday night, he will also run the Sprint Cup Series race on Saturday night, which he says the opportunity to do double duty is huge.

“It’s a whole different ball game on that side of the garage, but it’s been good so far, and I’m looking forward to more experience,” he added.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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Categories
XFINITY

Buescher: They Knew We Were Here

By Kelly Crandall – His racecar might have been damaged, but @Chris_Buescher’s spirits certainly were not.

Buescher finished 28th on Saturday afternoon in Kansas, the victim of what started as a single car spin from @KyleLarsonRacin on Lap 89. But the Roush driver was collected when his ride side door was completely torn away from the body of the No. 60 Roush Performance Parts Mustang.

After starting third and quickly moving into the top-two, Buescher grabbed the lead on Lap 7, the first of what would be two occasions on the day. Buescher tallied a total of 20 circuits at the front on another weekend where the evidence was clear how fast and how far the group has come.

“This team had a good chance to win this race. I think everyone knew that,” Buescher said afterwards. “We unloaded off the truck really fast in practice and had our best qualifying effort this year. I am really proud of them.”

Following the accident, Buescher drove his machine straight to the garage for repairs. Saturday marked just the second time the Roush Fenway team failed to finish inside the top-20 on a 1.5-mile track. The Rookie of the Year contenders had also gone eight consecutive weeks finishing no worse than 13th (Atlanta).

The summer stretch was by far his best of the season. They captured a win and demonstrated the overall speed the team found by leading 54 laps (including those racked up Saturday), as well as eight top-10 finishes in 17 races.

In fact, that’s where Buescher earned all his laps led this season, aside from the one he was out front for at Talladega in May.

“It is a shame getting caught up in somebody else’s mess. When it happens you can’t do anything about it,” Buescher said.

Four races remain in the 2014 season, and Buescher remains seventh in points. Next comes Charlotte where he finished ninth in the spring, and it’s another high-speed track, an apparent comfort zone.

Though right now it doesn’t appear there is any loss of confidence no matter where the location. Buescher looks, and continues to feel, good no matter where the team unloads.

“Thanks to Roush Performance Parts coming on board with our Breast Cancer Awareness scheme and the pink and black looks awesome,” he said. “We will go get ‘em at Charlotte.

“We have momentum on our side the last four weeks and I guarantee you the field knows we are showing up.”

EMAIL KELLY AT kelly.crandall@popularspeed.com

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Categories
XFINITY

Buescher Finds Dover Sweet Spot for Top-Five

By Kelly Crandall (DOVER, Del.) – From the moment the track opened for Nationwide Series practice at Dover, @Chris_Buescher was near the top of the speed chart.

Saturday afternoon in the Dover 200 he remained at the top of the board as he challenged Dover dominators @JoeyLogano and @KyleBusch. Buescher eventually brought his Roush Fenway Ford Mustang home fourth, his fifth top-five finish of the season.

After qualifying sixth, which was the lowest he ran throughout the 200-lap event, Buescher made a quick charge to the runner-up spot behind early leader Logano.

He never led a lap though and soon stabilized in third position. Losing a position did nothing to dampen the team’s spirits as comfortably held a residence in the top-five.

“That was a lot of fun. It was cool coming here for the first time (in May) and ending up 11th. We were able to build from that,” Buescher said afterwards.

“These Roush Performance Parts 60 guys did an awesome job today. We were really good on pit road the whole time. We were nice and consistent and we had a lot of fun racing these guys. I’m looking forward to the next one.”

In what now have been, for Buescher at least, 27 of 28 races, he’s improved his average finish to 12.6. Following a difficult first six races of the season, the team went on a hot streak that consisted of four top-10s in weeks. Buescher then grabbed his first career win in late summer and hasn’t finished lower than 13th since.

“Every week you’ve got to continue to get a little better. Our consistency has been there. Our speed in practice is coming and it’s just putting these races together,” he said of how the team has progressed.

“Our last couple of weeks have been really good. This is our best finish since Mid-Ohio, so I’m looking forward to getting to the next one and keeping this going.”

The Rookie of the Year contender (he’s currently third in those standings) has been holding strong at seventh in the overall championship standings for the past 10 weeks. Over 100 points behind the leaders, Buescher and company have been working towards cutting down the gap in hopes of gaining a few more spots before season’s end.

After missing the race at Daytona in February, the theme of their year has been battling from behind. Something that while they’ve been able to overcome to make waves, Buescher admitted still comes to mind as what could have been.

“Yeah, we always think about that. Not getting to make our first Daytona start due to the new format, rain – we were extremely fast – but we took it for what it is and we’ve been going forward understanding that we missed a race and we’re still seventh in points,” he said.

“I look at it as a big plus for our whole team. I’m really proud of these guys for sticking with it and going out here. We’ve taken a lot of chances this year. We’ve been in position to do it now. We have nothing to lose in the points, so it’s almost been a blessing for us to be able to experiment a little bit and take some chances that you usually wouldn’t do.”

EMAIL KELLY AT kelly.crandall@popularspeed.com

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Categories
XFINITY

Roush Fenway Youth Benefitting from Mark Martin Return

By Matt Weaver (Bristol, Tenn.) — Earlier this month, @MarkMartin and Roush Fenway Racing announced that the long-time partners have reunited and that the Sprint Cup veteran would serve as a driver coach and team consultant moving forward. But as it turns out, Martin had already joined the team several months prior and had already been working with RFR’s Nationwide Series drivers — @Chris_Buescher, Trevor Bayne and Ryan Reed.

Each week following a NASCAR event, Martin visits the Roush Fenway shop in Concord, N.C. and attends the weekly debriefs with team officials, drivers and crew members. His job is to analyze race footage and opine on what the team did right and where there is room for improvement.

Buescher is the most recent winner in the Nationwide Series, having won last week on the road course at Mid-Ohio. On Thursday at Bristol Motor Speedway, Buescher called Martin a “huge asset for the team because of his talent and experience” from 30 years in the sport.

“It’s going to help us move forward, especially rookies like me and Ryan,” Buescher said. “We’re going to a lot of these tracks for the first time this season and while I have two prior races here, Mark helps us both on the track and off.

“He attends our team debriefs and tells us what he saw we could have done better. I’m really looking forward to having a long term relationship with Mark and having him help us as we continue to improve.”

Weaver: Roush Restocking for Future Success

Bayne is the 2011 Daytona 500 winner and is far from a rookie but he still feels like Martin has helped him improve this season, leading up to his full-time debut in the Sprint Cup Series next year. Bayne was quick to point out that everyone at RFR attends the meetings and provides their input but that Martin’s tenure is what separates him from the rest of the organization.

“Everyone at the team is involved in these meetings but he’s certainly provided his approach and perspective on all the things that we do,” Bayne said. “From my perspective, he’s been a huge asset especially as I get ready to run in the Sprint Cup Series full-time.

“I definitely plan on leaning on him quite a bit and I really look forward to having him at the shop.”