Chris Buescher doesn’t want to pull any punches. He knows that anyone in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series garage can and will find a million different ways to explain a lack of performance. He knows that some races could have gone better if not for that one bit of bad luck or that one wrong decision. But still, he knows the truth.
“I’d say everybody thought we’d be a little better at this point, and we haven’t quite gotten to where we felt like we should’ve been,” Buescher says.
Expectations are subjective, but the stats show that Buescher has hit a plateau in the Cup series. His average finish in 2018 essentially mirrored his 2017 result, and his No. 37 team managed to score just two top-10 finishes — both fifth-place results — last season after netting four in 2017. Both came on restrictor plate tracks.
Buescher enters this season as the veteran on the two-car Team Kroger ClickList JTG Daugherty Racing team. AJ Allmendinger parted ways with the organization at the close of last season, and New England short track rookie Ryan Preece has taken over in the No. 47 car.
There are similarities between the new teammates: Buescher earned a Cup seat thanks to winning the 2015 Xfinity Series title, and Preece delivered sterling results in part-time Xfinity opportunities in the last two seasons (two wins and 11 top-5 finishes in 19 starts) to earn his.
“Me and Ryan have pretty similar personalities,” Buescher says. “He’s another one of the guys that grew up working on this stuff and knows the ins and outs of these racecars. I think that can really help you at times really understand what you’re looking for, not just tell you if it’s loose or tight but actually have an idea of what you feel underneath the car that could be better and could make you faster.”
Buescher says that his No. 37 team started preparing for this season’s new rules package as much as possible during the final 10 races of last season. That preparation was a challenge because of the incredible change in car designs year to year. The 2019 rules heavily reduce engine horsepower and increase car downforce at most tracks.
“We can’t do much with the [aerodynamic] package until we show up to Atlanta and really know where we’re heading with that, but we’ve been trying to figure out stuff on the chassis side that’ll make us better,” Buescher says.
The 26-year-old also can’t help but laugh at the irony that the new season brings. The team switched to Hendrick engines in the offseason in a bid for more performance, or “just as [NASCAR] tunes everything back,” Buescher says.
Still, Buescher sees an opportunity this season thanks to the new rules.
“We think it’s gonna be a good thing for our program in general,” Buescher says. “I think it’s gonna be a little bit of an equalizer, bring the spread closer together at least. It may not take [us] from where we’re at now to a top-5 car immediately, but hopefully it’ll just close that gap and get us to where we’re smaller changes away from being able to jump spots and really be able to get some good runs.”
Vegas Betting Odds to win 2019 Cup Championship: 2000/1 (per Sportsbook.ag)