Published August 29, 2013
Just about any way the proverbial pie is sliced, the last month or so has been a rather amazing ride for James Buescher.
The good times began in earnest July 26 when the reigning NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion and his wife, Kris, welcomed their first child - son, Stetson - into the world.
The fun reached another level Aug. 17 when Buescher, winless over the season's first 11 races, triumphed at Michigan International Speedway - and got to celebrate in victory lane with his wife and newborn son, to boot.
Then, following a seventh-place finish in last week's race at Bristol Motor Speedway, Buescher soared to a season-best ranking of second in the truck standings.
Now, for the first time in several months, it appears that Buescher has a real shot at becoming the first driver to win back-to-back truck titles since the series' 1995 inception.
"I haven't really looked back at why a champion didn't repeat the next year, but I feel like we have what it takes to do that and be that person that repeats, and I feel like we've had a solid couple years in the series," Buescher said. "I feel like we have what it takes to be the champion again. Maybe we win a couple more races before the end of the year and you'll see us back at the head table on the championship stage come Homestead."
Buescher isn't popping any corks just yet. Despite all the good things that have happened both personally and professionally over the last few weeks, the Turner Scott Motorsports driver has his work cut out for him if he wants to repeat as champ.
Matt Crafton, the series leader, is a whopping 49 points ahead, and shows no signs of abandoning the consistency that has put him on top of the standings since late April.
"I don't look at where I'm at in points," Buescher said of getting up to second in the standings. "I look at the number of points I'm out of first, because it doesn't matter if you're third, fourth, second, you have a number of points you have to gain on the leader to be the champion. So I don't really get too caught up in where we're at as far as position in points, but I do keep track of how many points out of the lead we are."
Although he still has a tall hill to climb, Buescher has chopped 15 points off Crafton's cushion over the last two races.
"He's definitely in sight," Buescher said. "Forty nine points is a lot but ... it's reversible. Two races ago, we were 64 points out, in fourth place. Things change quickly in the points, and just because he has a 49-point lead doesn't mean he can't lose 50 points before Homestead. Crazy things happen, but we just have to go out there and do everything we can to gain as many points as we can possibly gain to be able to capitalize when he's not gaining a lot of points. We can't watch everything the 88 (Crafton) is doing; we just need to focus on our own program."
The next order of business for Buescher, Crafton and rest of the truck series is Sunday's inaugural truck race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, a 2.46-mile road course in Ontario.
The race, No. 14 of 22 on this year's truck calendar, is significant for reasons besides its championship implications. The truck series hasn't competed on a road course in 13 years, a virtual eternity in the world of NASCAR. The last time NASCAR's tough trucks turned right and left - at Watkins Glen on June 24, 2000 - Buescher was 10 years old.
"I've been saying the trucks should go road-course racing, for several years," said Buescher, adding that he doesn't consider himself a true road-course racer. "I enjoy going to road courses. I'm not the best at them but I feel like when I'm on then I'm learning, and I think they're a lot of fun. The fact that the Nationwide Series goes to three road courses a year and the (Sprint) Cup Series goes to two and even the (NASCAR ) K&N Series goes to a couple, I feel like the trucks should. Every other NASCAR series does, and it's just a fun event."
Although Buescher boasts no road-course experience in trucks, the Plano, Texas native does have a pair road-course starts in the Nationwide Series (at Watkins Glen and Road America), where he has made select starts the last few seasons.
And, unlike most of his competitors, Buescher is also not a total stranger to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, having been in attendance when Turner Scott Motorsports teammate Nelson Piquet Jr. participated in a NASCAR test at the new track.
"You can learn a lot just by watching in a type of environment that you're not fully comfortable in and not the most experienced at, so I think that was helpful for me to be able to go up there and watch that," Buescher said.
As much as he's ready for this weekend, Buescher will also be eager to return home to Texas to be with his son, too.
"I'm kind of dreading the length of this trip," Buescher said. "I feel like he's going to change a lot in the five days that I'm gone, and I'm looking forward to getting back home on Sunday -hopefully, with another trophy for him."