Three years ago this weekend, Chris Buescher‘s name went into the NASCAR record book as a winner in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
But it’s actually been the past three months of 2019 that’s seen the Texan be his best since moving to Cup full time in 2016.
Sure, Buescher led 12 circuits on that foggy day in the Pocono Mountains en route to his victory at Pocono Raceway. But it was a strategy call to stay out during a cycle of green-flag pit stops by Bob Osborne that got the team the win.
This season, Buescher’s talent has been at the forefront of JTG Daugherty Racing’s turnaround. Through the opening 20 races of the season, the No. 37 team has four top-10 finishes (tying Buescher’s best mark for a single season, 2017), sitting 21st in the championship standings.
21st may not sound entirely impressive, especially since Buescher finished 16th in the 2016 point standings by virtue of making the playoffs via winning at Pocono. But the No. 37 car is ahead of both Richard Childress Racing drivers in points (Austin Dillon, 22nd; Daniel Hemric, 25th) and only 10 markers behind Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for 20th.
Based off results, one could argue Buescher is the most improved drivers at the Cup level in the past calendar year.
“It’s been a good couple months for us — a good year in general,” Buescher tells Frontstretch. “It’s the most competitive I’ve been in my Cup career. JTG Daugherty Racing has worked extremely hard over the offseason to come prepared for this [aerodynamic] package. I think we did our homework and we unloaded with something that was competitive, and we’ve been able to build off that. It’s an impressive feat by a medium-sized team to be able to do what I think we’ve been able to accomplish.”
Buescher is on a streak of nine consecutive top-20 finishes, a career-long for both he and JTG Daugherty Racing (Buescher’s previous career-long was four, twice). Over those nine events, the No. 37 team has three top-10 efforts (Kansas Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Kentucky Speedway), moving up two positions in the points.
Outside of a pair of DNFs in two of the superspeedway races and disappointing finishes at Bristol Motor Speedway and Richmond Raceway after running inside the top 10 for much of the day, Buescher wonders what could have been.
“Everything has been hitting on all eight cylinders, and we’ve been able to put together a string of good runs,” Buescher says. “You look at a couple of mishaps earlier in the year, and you get rid of those and we would be in a great place. At the same time, everyone will say the same thing. We’ve had a really good season and a really good couple months.”
Buescher doesn’t take all the credit behind the wheel. Instead, team owner Tad Geschickter has sent both Buescher, himself and rookie Ryan Preece to a trainer over the course of the season at Top Team Sports Performance in Huntersville, N.C. Buescher sees the results helping him on and off the racetrack.
“Ryan, myself and Tad have all been seeing a trainer — a top team down in the Charlotte area,” Buescher says. “It’s been something that’s been a lot of work for both of us and has changed a lot of things. But I’ve been enjoying it and having fun while we’re going through the program, and I think it’s been something that’s been helping us.”
Visibly, Buescher has lost weight via this workout program. It’s not just a cardio-based training program; it also implements some weight training.
“It’s well-rounded,” Buescher says. “You’ve got to have the cardio side of things, but you have to have the strength to do this [driving racecars]. It’s not something that’s easy to do by any means — these things are heavy and bulky. We’ve got power steering, and that’s the extent of it. We don’t really get an AC that’s worth anything. We don’t have power brakes, and it’s hard to slow down 3,500 lbs.”
The No. 37 car will roll-off from 33rd starting position on Sunday (July 28), 11 positions below his average starting position (failed pre-race technical inspection). However, his average finishing position is 17.8, more than three positions better (21) than his previous single-season best (2018).