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.”

MRTI: Lucas Oil Raceway Recap

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Friday marked Carb Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, but there was also plenty of activity over in Brownsburg, Indiana at Lucas Oil Raceway.

Friday night’s Carb Night Classic featured the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda in their first oval events of the year: the Freedom 75 (USF2000) and the Freedom 90 (Pro Mazda).

Both races saw the points leaders in their respective series dominate, further asserting their championship prowess, and taking their first oval victories in the process.

Recaps of both races are below.

Pro Mazda: Thompson Holds Off Cunha for First Oval Win

The Freedom 90 saw Parker Thompson appear to be almost on cruise control for much of the race, as the Exclusive Autosport driver immediately jumped into the lead off the initial start and he began rocketing away from the field.

Behind him, a pair of Juncos Racing cars emerged in second and third, with Carlos Cunha ahead of Robert Megennis in that battle.

However, Thompson’s initial lead was wiped out following a Lap 46 crash involving David Malukas and Harrison Scott. The pair had been engaged in an intense battle for fourth, but came together in Turn 4, sending Scott spinning into the outside wall while Malukas eventually came to a stop alongside the front straightaway wall.

Thompson again pulled away when racing resumed on Lap 55, while Cunha immediately gave chase, passing the lapped car of Lodovico Laurini as he tried to keep Thompson in his sights.

Lapped traffic continued to play a key role in the closing stages, with Thompson getting briefly held up behind Nikita Lastochkin and Oliver Askew, allowing Cunha to close onto his gearbox in the final laps.

However, Thompson kept Cunha at bay to take the win, his third of the Pro Mazda season. Megennis drove a solid race to finish third, while Rinus VeeKay put three Juncos cars in the top five by finishing fourth. Team Pelfrey’s Sting Ray Robb finished fifth.

Thompson’s win sees him extend his points lead over VeeKay to 36, with Cunha only two points further back in third.

USF2000: Kirkwood Rolls to Victory in Oval Debut

Kyle Kirkwood was untouchable at Lucas Oil Raceway. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

If his first career oval proved a challenge for Cape Motorsports’ Kyle Kirkwood, he certainly did not show it. Starting on the pole, Kirkwood rocketed away into the lead and was never challenged.

Behind him, however, his closest title rival faltered. Alex Baron, who charged from eighth to third on Lap 1, crashed out while working his way around the lapped car of Russ McDonough. Baron was visibly upset and frustrated while walking along the pit lane after climbing out of the No. 29 Swan-RJB Motorsports Tatuus USF-17.

Racing only briefly returned to green on Lap 40 before Zach Holden rode up and over the back of Julian van der Watt, with both cars coming to a stop on the back straightaway.

A restart on Lap 50 again saw Kirkwood pull away, while Kaylen Frederick worked his way up to second around Rasmus Lindh and Lucas Kohl.

The race came to a close only eight laps later – the cautions brought a 30-minute time limit into play, preventing them from completing the originally planned 75-lap race.

In the end, no one got close to Kirkwood, who took a win on his oval debut, his third win of the 2018 season. Frederick came home second for his first podium of the year, and his first with Pabst Racing Services, while Rasmus Lindh rounded out the podium in third. Kohl and Jose Sierra completed the top five in fourth and fifth.

Kirkwood’s win combined with Baron’s crash to give Kirkwood a championship lead of 44 points. Sierra remains third, one point ahead of Igor Fraga.

Both series are back in action for double-headers at Road America on June 23-24.

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