Chris Buescher didn’t sugarcoat it. Restrictor-plate racing is not his forte, so he doesn’t have grand visions of winning the Daytona 500 on Sunday.
But the 25-year-old Prosper native is hopeful to post a better showing than he has his first two. Buescher had a second-to-last place finish of 39th in 2016, and improved just slightly to 35th last season.
“The finishes have been pretty rough the last two races,” said Buescher, driver of the No. 37 Kleenex Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for JTG Daugherty Racing.
“At the same time, we had decent speed. We just have so much still too learn about speedway racing, so we’re going to work on doing that … and surviving.”
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Yes, surviving the “big one(s)” is the key at restrictor-plate races. Crashes always knock out favorites and contenders in the early and middle portions of the race.
That’s why Buescher finished ahead of the likes of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth last season. An early wreck knocked all of those household names out of contention.
For Buescher, though, it’s still surreal to be running in the Daytona 500 with the best drivers in the world. The Star-Telegram caught up with him in a phone interview earlier this week.
On his offseason: “The offseason went very quickly for me. It kind of snuck up on me. I’ve been planning a wedding [to my fiancée Emma Helton] and we were moving at the same time. It was nice to get away for a few months. But being back at the race track, I’m ready to get back rolling.”
On not having a top-5 run last season, but being with JTG Daugherty Racing a second year: “It’s great. It takes so much time to build that continuity. Starting from scratch last season was tough. This year, we have almost all of the same crew back with us. It’s the same team. We know how everybody works together, know what we have to work on this one. It puts us in a much better spot. I just feel like it’s the right thing to do to have continuity. The teams that perform at their best are ones that have been together. Last year, we just didn’t fire off as good as we wanted to. We had some good runs, but the problem was there were too many in between that were subpar. The goal is to be more consistent this year.”
On Chevy having a new race car with the Camaro: “It’s a complete body redesign. The car is a much more aggressive design. The body has a lot of characteristics and we believe they are going to lead us to better results. But, yeah, the Camaro is back, muscle cars are back in the top level of racing, that’s awesome.”
On the aura of the Daytona 500: “Just being able to come here and participate, that’s pretty big. To have an opportunity to do it, to do it with 39 other drivers, it’s hard to get to this level. It’s harder to stay here.”
On Texas Motor Speedway: “I always love going to Texas and seeing family and friends. At the same time, it makes that weekend a little more hectic. But the repave has been really good for me, which is really exciting. I feel like the configuration was well done. It gave it a lot of character of its own. I do like what they’ve done with it and, like I said, it’s something that’s helped us quite a bit.”