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With just six races remaining in the 2012 season, James Buescher finds himself in a familiar place. Going into Las Vegas Motor Speedway last year, the driver of the No. 31 Chevrolet sat just three points behind eventual champion Austin Dillon. This season he’s just four markers behind Dillon’s younger brother Ty, but in 2011, Buescher moved away from the championship lead as the races wore down, finishing third in the standings. In those final five events, the driver of the No. 31 posted an average finish of 13th, and a third-place spot in the standings was pretty impressive given he had one less start than the rest of the leaders.
But can Buescher stop last year from repeating itself? Of course he can. In just a year, Turner Motorsports has come a long way, and for that matter, the driver of the No. 31 Chevrolet has too despite posting less top-10 results at this point than last season. With just two full-time drivers in 2011, Buescher and then-teammate Ricky Carmichael combined for 11 top 5s and 26 top 10s in 49 starts. Compare that to this season with Miguel Paludo and Nelson Piquet, Jr. teaming up with Buescher. In a combined 48 starts, the trio has posted five victories, 14 top 5s and 25 top 10s with a combined 18 races remaining to run. When you look at the numbers side by side, it’s much easier to see where Turner has improved, especially on intermediate tracks.
As far as Buescher is concerned, he could have as many as six victories if not for a couple of on-track incidents that took him out of contention. At Texas Motor Speedway in June, Buescher led 31 laps and found himself in an on-track altercation for the lead that nearly took both drivers out. While he did manage to post a 15th-place result, the No. 31 Chevrolet was clearly fast and would have been a challenge for the victory had he not had prior damage. Fast forward to Iowa Speedway in July where he started fourth and led several laps before his right front tire blew without warning. The resulting damage turned out to be terminal, leaving him to settle for a 30th-place finish.
But where does that leaves Buescher and the No. 31 team with six events left? The remaining tracks include three intermediates, a short track, a flat mile-long oval in Phoenix and the superspeedway at Talladega. Buescher has little to worry about when it comes to the three intermediate tracks barring a parts failure or getting caught up in another driver’s problem, and he finished third at the short Martinsville track earlier this year. Phoenix could be an issue with a best finish of 11th in 2010, however Buescher missed the race last year, something that won’t happen this season. And that brings us to the wild card that is Talladega. In an event that typically features several multi-truck wrecks, every championship driver is at risk, and those that manage to avoid trouble will remain in the battle to finish off the year.
Simply put, it’s clear to see how both Turner Motorsports and Buescher have grown into their own this season. In fact, barring a sponsorship nightmare that has plagued so many drivers, Buescher will remain in NASCAR for many years to come. But more importantly, the driver of the No. 31 Chevrolet has shown marked improvement this year and tends to be untouchable when he gets into clean air out in front of the field. Ty Dillon may hold that slim four-point advantage, but it appears Buescher has more of the momentum on his side this late in the year.
*Update:* Before taking to the track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Miguel Paludo and the entire Turner Motorsports team will take on a group of professional paintballers, including Greg Hastings, Thursday. They will also participate in an autograph session, plus the No. 32 Chevrolet will feature an image promoting Hastings’ newest video game entitled Greg Hastings Paintball 2. Wanna see all the action? Tune into the CWTS Setup show on SPEED prior to the Talladega event, October 6th at 3:30 PM ET.
*Tweet of the Week:*
“*@miguelpaludo:*”:http://www.twitter.com/miguelpaludo My new hot rod! “pic.twitter.com/fz0Tg1XQ”: pic.twitter.com/fz0Tg1XQ
“*@PatiSouzaPaludo:*”:http://www.twitter.com/patisouzapaludo Eles se amam! They love each other! http://instagr.am/p/P4Ui20vcMO/”:http://instagr.am/p/P4Ui20vcMO/
*Photo of the Week:*
Did you know Beth is participating in the Step Out Walk to end diabetes this November in Dallas, TX? Want to know how you can help? Click on the Step Out image above to learn why she’s walking and what you can do to make a difference.