SPARTA, Ky. – Turner Motorsports has made plenty of waves in 2012, just not where they were expected to.
No one would have been surprised to hear that James Buescher would win a race in 2012 at the start of the year, but no one would have predicted that Buescher would find that win in Nationwide Series competition, surging from 11th to first through a pile of wrecked cars coming to the checkers at Daytona.
The team’s unsponsored ARCA entry ran out of gas coming to the checkers at Daytona and proceeded to win at Talladega with Brandon McReynolds. And just last week, Truck Series regular Nelson Piquet Jr. spanked the Nationwide field to score his first career NASCAR win at Road America.
Turner Motorsports had an unusual situation on their hands. While their trucks had seemingly cooled off after a red-hot start to the 2012 campaign and their flagship Nationwide Series entries could only be described as underwhelming (both Justin Allgaier and Kasey Kahne have seldom contended in the Nos. 31 and 38 2012), it was the team’s part-timers and the third NNS car that were bringing home the bacon.
Thursday night at Kentucky (June 28) told a different story: This is still Buescher’s team and he is the thoroughbred in this stable. On a night that saw both Turner’s most recent shining star in Piquet come crashing back to the earth in a wreck that also collected points leader Justin Lofton, Buescher made easy work of a bumpy race track, scorching hot weather and the Truck Series field en route to score an already overdue second win.
Having taken four tires after a lap 104 caution for Tim George Jr. hitting the fence, Buescher blasted by Ty Dillon and Timothy Peters on a lap 108 restart and was never seriously challenged for the final 42 circuits.
Buescher didn’t start this race as the story of the weekend in his camp, but he certainly finished it on a night that saw the rest of his teammates far removed from the Cinderella stories that have dotted the operation’s results this year. Miguel Paludo had a calm, uneventful and unremarkable night that saw the No. 32 truck come home 12th.
Piquet got a sour taste of just how fast this sport can go from ecstasy to agony. Starting on the front row and threatening to take the lead at the near drop of the green flag after a strong jump on polesitter Matt Crafton, Piquet fell back to third and following what the team tweeted was a “tricky” restart after a myriad of early cautions fell back to eighth within 30 laps.
Struggling with handling conditions that were described as “loose in the middle and a little tight everywhere” as of lap 39, Piquet was mired outside the top 10 when disaster struck on lap 69. Tight racing between Todd Bodine and Lofton sent both trucks spinning … and Piquet’s No. 30 was collected and destroyed in the aftermath.
Piquet was visibly dejected in his post-race interview and for good reason. Any semblance of momentum stemming from the previous weekend’s road-race victory was left as mangled as his race truck.
And then there was Kyle Larson, the one driver in the field who dominated the TV coverage if not the race as he scored a top-10 result in his Truck Series debut driving Turner’s No. 4 entry as a Chip Ganassi Racing development driver.
Larson’s run was a strong performance and a definite step up from his 13th place showing in the ARCA race at Michigan two weeks back. Having said that, it was far from flawless; Larson was involved in contact on lap 110 that ended Cale Gale’s night early, pushing up into the No. 33 truck in turn 2 and sending it into the wall on corner exit.
And having said that, seeing flashy debuts from Ganassi drivers is something that’s been seen repeatedly in the past … and amounted to nothing in the big picture. Folks are quick to forget that David Stremme finished 16th in his debut Cup race with Ganassi in 2005, despite driving a fourth car on an intermediate oval. Or that Reed Sorenson started his Nationwide Series career with three top 10s and a near win at Atlanta in his first five starts for the organization.
Where are those guys today?
It’s not meant to be a knock on Larson, who definitely deserves kudos for arguably the best debut performance NASCAR has seen this year since Ryan Blaney hit the scene at Richmond earlier in the spring. But it’s also important to keep perspective; after all, Turner Motorsports has certainly produced its share of flashy starts in 2012.
What’s abundantly clear after Thursday’s Truck race is this. Family connections to the team owner aside, Buescher is the loaded gun in this ever-growing stable. On a night where both the track and conditions were extremely challenging, Buescher was the Turner Motorsports driver that delivered.
On a night where the points leader ran into adversity and the opportunity window opened, it was Buescher that cashed in. And leaving Kentucky, Buescher is again the talk of the Truck Series and of his own team.
About the author
Richmond, Virginia native. Wake Forest University class of 2008. Affiliated with Frontstretch since 2008, as of today the site's first dirt racing commentator. Emphasis on commentary. Big race fan, bigger First Amendment advocate.
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