Chris Buescher was the underdog driver of Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, ripping his No. 37 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet to a ninth-place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
In fact, both JTG cars were top-10 savvy, with teammate Ryan Preece running in 11th before crashing on pit road to end his day short. But for Buescher, the veteran of the team, kept his nose clean (literally and figuratively) to survive the mid-pack frenzy to hit the top 10.
“To bounce back like that and to make huge steps like that, I’m proud of this group,” Buescher said. “That was good. It’s a good recovery from what happened at Daytona.”
Indeed, crashing out of last week’s Daytona 500 gave Buescher a 37th-place result to start the year. Turning around with a ninth at round two at Atlanta, Buescher scored his first non-plate top-10 result since Kansas in the fall of 2017.
And it wasn’t a fluke.
“We really rolled through the field and got better every time we came down pit road,” he said. “Our pit crew did an outstanding job. When the tires fell off, it seemed to close the gap better. On new tires, you still had that discrepancy.
“This is a great start. Atlanta is not like Vegas but for low-grip racetracks, I’d say we’re looking at Fontana. This was a good learning curve for there.”
Buescher learned crucial drafting lessons that could pay dividends in the intermediate tracks to come.
“You got a bit of a draft by the end of the straightaway definitely,” he said. “But man, you couldn’t stay in line with anybody or you would lose the nose. The best option would be to keep a fender clean, whichever one it may be. That seemed to help it turn a lot better.”
Could Sunday’s competitive speed be a sign of things to come for JTG?
Buescher believes evolution is still to come with the package.
“I had a lot of fun with the racing,” he said. “It is very aero-sensitive still but it was fun. There is no grip in this racetrack so you have to try and get everything you can get.
“We had a lot to learn, everybody does. As everybody learns more about this package, it will just keep getting better.”