Chris Buescher doesn’t have a bag of tricks to deploy at Texas Motor Speedway.
But the introduction of a new aerodynamic package on a surface that was paved two years ago just might help.
The Prosper, Texas, native knows it takes more than magic to run well at his home track. Since the 1.5-mile venue was repaved in 2017, the surface has been lightning fast. Fortunately, the advances JTG Daugherty Racing has made this season have bolstered Buescher’s confidence entering this Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 (at 3 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
“Everybody has been trying to work with this package, and we spent a lot more time and resources getting everything ready to hit the ground running,” Buescher said. “We don't have to spend all the resources that we don't have trying to find all these tricks and things. It has been a way for us to try and get closer to the field.
“I don't think it took and changed the running order. I think we still see the dominant cars are the dominant cars, but we are just a lot closer. We have gotten into the next group of cars and I know the work that we have put into it and everybody back at the shop has, has paid off.”
Comparing Buescher's last five starts of this season to the same timeframe last year and the driver of the No. 37 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 has improved by an average eight positions on the race track.
Buescher is looking for similar improvements at Texas. He scored his first top-15 finish in the spring race last year in his sixth career start.
“Since the repave, I have actually enjoyed Texas quite a bit,” Buescher said. “I liked it before, but we have run better with it the way that it is. And I don't really have an explanation why, it really doesn't make sense. The track being so different from one end to the other it has been a big challenge for us set up wise.
Buescher wouldn’t be surprised if Sunday’s action in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race is reminiscent of the wild, wild west as drivers running wide open with this package. He’s predicting cars barreling into Turn 1 five-wide on the restarts and more side-by-side racing with the additional downforce and slower entry speeds.
“With (turns) one and two being as wide as they are, it’s going to be wild, wild restarts,” Buescher said. “The groove has not come in yet. So, I don’t know how that is going to work. (Turns) 3 and 4 was pretty close to wide open with the old package. Lots of grip over there and lots of banking, very fast.
“So, with this one, I know we will be wide open. I just don’t know, being that there is enough banking to hold it, it might widen out better than it has in the past. That is my hope. I think you are going to see a different race at Texas than we have had with the other package. In my mind, it should maybe change a little bit more than the others have.”
KAZ GRALA IS ONLY FOCUSING ON RACING
Kaz Grala has sat on the sidelines since the 2019 NASCAR season started.
But he hasn’t been idle.
The new driver of the No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet has visited the Welcome, N.C.-based shop every day. He has logged hundreds of laps on both the GM and RCR simulators. He has watched nine hours of film from previous Texas Motor Speedway Xfinity races to prepare for this weekend.
The work paid off. Grala posted the third-fastest lap in first practice for Saturday’s My Bariatric Solutions 300 (at 1 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
“It’s been tough watching the races knowing that I wish I could be in them,” Grala said. “I’ve been quite busy actually. RCR is unbelievable with how many resources they have and how many tools. I almost feel like having a part-time schedule can be a plus.
“Having seat time for the other drivers, they’re fresh and warmed up after the first five races. I’m coming in cold…but I’ve been able to put in more work and preparation.”
In 2018, Grala ran 22 of 33 races in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in his first year on the tour. The first 10 races he competed with JGL Racing. Grala ran the balance of his schedule with Fury Race Cars. His best results were two top-five finishes at Daytona and a pair of top 10s at Charlotte—on the oval and the Roval. Grala finished 26th in the Xfinity Series race at Texas last April.