Buescher hopes to carry over Trucks success into Nationwide

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On the way to becoming a champion, there are points where you have to take a deep breath – and then, take a risk.

Now, James Buescher is already a past champion, having taken the Camping World Truck Series title in 2012. But the Nationwide Series newcomer, now driving the No. 99 RAB Racing Toyota, is aiming to one day achieve the ultimate glory for a stock car racer: Winning a Sprint Cup.

And so, he went ahead with the decision to move up to Nationwide and leave Turner Scott Motorsports, which is co-owned by his father-in-law, Steve Turner.

Between the solid equipment and the family ties, Buescher had it pretty good. But he wants more.

“I want to make it to the Sprint Cup level, and I want to be a Sprint Cup champion one day,” Buescher said yesterday during Nationwide testing at Daytona International Speedway.

“I have to make the moves in my career that are best for me, and I feel like coming over to RAB Racing and Toyota and being able to bring Rheem with me as a sponsor was the best situation for me to be in right now.”

In addition to getting used to a new team, Buescher is also having to contend with Nationwide’s higher level of competition in general. As he noted, there’s a higher number of Sprint Cup interlopers that drop in on Nationwide races than in the Trucks, and then there are the longer races as well.

But it’s not like he’s entering his first full-time Nationwide season with just a few scattered starts here and there. In fact, he’s made 58 starts in NASCAR’s No. 2 series across the last six seasons. The most he’s had in a single year during that span was 20 starts in 2012, a year that also saw him win the 300-mile Nationwide season opener at Daytona.

“I’ve raced plenty of Nationwide races in the past, so I feel like I’m going to get in the swing of things even faster than if I had only raced five or six Nationwide races,” he said. “But I’m excited to finally be full-time in the series, and it’s got its challenges, but I feel like I’m ready to tackle them.”

And even though he’s just become a regular in Nationwide, he sees no reason why he and RAB can’t fight for the series championship in their first year together.

“I feel like there’s a lot of speed in the 99 car,” he said. “They showed that last year. They’ve got a few poles, and they definitely showed a lot of speed just about every week. Coming over to a new team, it’s going to take some learning and there’s a lot of unknowns.

“We have to learn each other and I have to learn the cars and just the way things work and working with a new manufacturer.  So I have a lot of unknowns, but I feel like we’ll be competitive for a championship.”

‘Game-changing’ multi-year agreement will take INDYCAR, NBC Sports ‘to the next level’


NEW YORK – As the fourth Nor’easter in three weeks bore down on the Big Apple, it was tough to spot people that were clearly in a good mood.

But Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN, was clearly in a good mood.

On Wednesday morning at 10 am ET, we all found out why: NBC will become the exclusive home of the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, starting in 2019.

The new three-year deal not only makes “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” part of the network’s “Championship Season” – its collection of high-profile championship events from May to July – but also reaffirms NBC’s status as the home of motorsports television in the United States.

That status is something Miller doesn’t take for granted.

“It’s important people know that storytelling is in our DNA, and motorsports lends itself very well to storytelling,” Miller said as he, INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles and driver James Hinchcliffe made a snowy trek to the New York Stock Exchange to promote the deal on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

“We’ve had great success with the second half of the entire NASCAR season, and then we’ve had half of the IndyCar package [since 2009] … But we never had the real meat of the series and that didn’t set anybody up for success.

“Having the entire package of IndyCar now – all 17 races, qualifying, practice, you name it – really sets IndyCar on a strong path and solidifies NBC’s position as the home of motorsports. I think it becomes a property much like the Premier League, the NHL, and even the Olympics and the Triple Crown. We have 100 percent of the media opportunity and we can put all those great assets behind it.”

With the storm no doubt keeping some traders home, the floor of the NYSE was relatively subdued. But that made it no less important to be at the heart of Wall Street. Miles and his team are pursuing a new title sponsor for the IndyCar Series to replace Verizon, which will fully focus its efforts in the series with the powerhouse Team Penske going forward in 2019.

The new deal – which includes 8 races per year on the NBC network (with the remaining races going to NBCSN), live streaming of all races, and a direct-to-consumer package with NBC Sports Gold – gave Miles plenty to push for any potential backers. As for Hinchcliffe, he held his own nicely in an interview that also explored IndyCar’s global ambitions, the impact of technology on the sport, and of course, his spin around the ballroom on “Dancing with the Stars.”

On the ride back to 30 Rock, Miles was confident that NBC can play a big role in attracting a sponsor that can help the series keep growing.

“With respect to our work in finding the best title sponsor, it’s really important – and this has not been talked about much – but we expect to work with hand in glove with NBC’s sales,” he explained. “We have the opportunity to create packages which are both broadcast sponsorship and series sponsorship, I think, in a way that doesn’t come along very often.

“Usually, the media deal and the sponsorship deal doesn’t align like this, so we’re really excited about the offering we’ll have and the approach to the market we can take.”

Should the partnership with NBC bear fruit on that front and others, it will only add to the upswing that the IndyCar Series has had in recent years.

Hinchcliffe has been a witness to that. He entered the series in 2011, when it was trying to find its footing after the sport’s reunification three years earlier. After 13 years of CART vs. the Indy Racing League, getting everything back under one roof was not a smooth process.

But fast-forward seven years, and things have changed for the better. TV ratings and digital viewers have gone up. Race scheduling has become more stable and enhanced with the return of traditional open-wheel markets. And this year’s debut of the universal aero kit aims to pump up the action on the track, while also giving the cars a cleaner, meaner look.

Now, with NBC all in, Hinchcliffe is bullish on his sport’s future.

“This is a game-changing thing for us,” he declared. “If you look at the last four or five years, we’ve seen a steady growth in pretty much every measureable metric that there is – in a time where, globally, motorsports is in a bit of a downturn.

“The fact that IndyCar was able to rally against a global dip in motorsports interest, attendance, sponsorship – it speaks volumes to what we have been doing and this is just gonna take us to that next level.”