The 12 Questions series of interviews continues with Chris Buescher, who is currently 26th in the standings for JTG Daugherty Racing. Despite missing the playoffs after making it in 2016, Buescher’s average finish has improved by five positions over last year.
1. How much of your success is based on natural ability and how much has come from working at it?
I’d to think that it’s been 50-50. I feel like I’ve been able to hang tough. Early on, I kind of had some idea I could do this, and from then on it’s just been working at it to to fine-tune it through the years.
2. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and now Dale Earnhardt Jr. have all either retired in the last couple years or will retire soon. What’s your pitch for fans of theirs to become fans of yours?
That’s all the guys that I grew up watching before I was even racing, before I was racing hardly anything. So for me, I feel like I can relate to a lot of the drivers from a lot longer ago. I feel like I’m a pretty normal person. I’ve worked on race cars all my life. I’ve been able to be a big part (of the team), being in the shop and working through the last handful of years to understand what goes into them. So I feel like I’m a bit more hands-on, I’d say.
That actually reminds me: When they announced that you had re-signed with JTG, they said you’re in the shop more than any other driver they’ve worked with. Why do you go in the shop so much?
Because I have friends there. (Laughs) I like going in and just seeing what’s going on. I don’t really get my hands dirty anymore; I think everyone’s scared that I don’t know what I’m doing, and I probably don’t at this level. This is the best of the best that work on our race cars every week and that are on the track every week.
So it’s a way for me to go in and hang out in a much less stressful environment. Race weekends are very much down to business and get things done, and you can goof off and have a good time, but everybody’s stress levels are a lot higher. I feel like when you’re at the shop, you get a little more personality out of everybody and can hang out, go to lunch, talk about something other than racing sometimes. I think everyone likes to take a break every now and then with the length of the season and how often we are traveling. So for me, it’s just a good way to go catch up.
3. What is the hardest part of your job away from the racetrack?
A lot of that, for me, is trying to dress up. I don’t get too fancy most of the time, so a lot of our functions we go to, a lot of events, I have to really focus on that.
JTG Daugherty has a thing with golf around here that everybody likes to go have meetings and hang out with sponsors and discuss business on the golf course, and I’ve played two games in my life — both this year as a matter of fact — and I’m horrible. So I’d say that’s got to be the hardest part of my non-driving part of this thing, is trying to figure out how to play golf at this point.
That’s gonna be a work in progress. Golf takes a long time to learn, so that’s pretty frustrating.
Yeah. AJ (Allmendinger) is very good, Ernie (Cope) is very good, Trent (Owens) is very good — and I’m not. We were at the shop hitting a couple the other day and I actually hit the building on my first shot. So, not good.
4. Let’s say a fan spots you eating dinner in a nice restaurant. Should they come over for an autograph or no?
I’ve had that a couple of times. It’s actually kind of fun because I feel like I’m still under the radar enough to where no one’s ever sure of themselves. It’s always like, “Well, maybe…”
They’re like, “Is that Chris Buescher…?”
We get a lot of that, and that’s actually kind of fun. I like to mess around with people for a little bit and then yeah, we’ll sign stuff. It depends on how nice of a restaurant, I guess.
So wait — do you try to tell them at first that you’re not Chris Buescher and see the look on their faces or something?
I’ll usually tell them I work in racing or I’m a mechanic or something and then kind of ease into it and see if they catch on or see if they believe it. I like to play games for a little bit.
5. What’s a story in NASCAR that doesn’t get enough coverage?
Something that I think a lot of fans don’t realize is how much time and effort our teams put in. (Richmond) being a Saturday night race is actually very nice for teams, especially the crew members. They get back from a Sunday night race and they’re back at work mid-morning Monday and roll right up until that plane takes off. It’s a very long season, and it’s a commitment by everybody in the garage area that’s very time-consuming. It’s very difficult to live any kind of normal life in this business, and I think everybody deserves a lot more credit than what they get on the amount of dedication they have to this sport to make it what it is today.
6. Who is the last driver you texted?
Probably AJ. And before that it was probably (Matt) DiBenedetto, I would say. That might have been social media though. He wanted to go four-wheeling with us next time.
He felt left out?
Yeah, we had a little fun in West Virginia last off-weekend, and I guess I forgot to invite him. I didn’t know he wanted to go.
7. Do you consider race car drivers to be entertainers?
Certain ones. (Laughs)
8. What is your middle finger policy on the racetrack?
My policy is trying to keep it down to three times a year or less. I used up one (at Darlington), and I think I had one earlier this season as well. White gloves are bad for that policy. I try to do it discreetly.
What did the person do last week (at Darlington) to deserve that?
I kind of just got run over. We all but wrecked. It was Turn 1 all the way to the exit of Turn 2 sideways, and it was bad. I felt it was very deserving.
9. Some drivers keep a payback list in their minds. Do you also have a list for drivers who have done you a favor on the track?
I don’t think it’s a case-by-case deal. I think you get to know who you race around a lot of times. I think you just kind of build up a resume, so to speak, with other drivers. So when you’re around certain ones, you kind of know what you have from a good side. And I’d say on the bad side of things, I think more or less, more times than not it’s unexpected, and so that’s why you feel like you deserve retaliation. And then there’s those where you fully expect it going into it and you know that’s how you get raced.
10. Who is the most famous person you’ve had dinner with?
I just happened to run into Miss Brazil at a steakhouse like eight or nine years ago. That was kind of neat. That was in Vegas.
How did you know it was Miss Brazil?
She was wearing her sash. She wasn’t trying to hide it by any means.
She was in the restaurant with the Miss Brazil thing right on there?
Yeah, so we got to sit down and talk to her and the people she was with for a while. That was kind of neat. At the time, I was nobody, so that was pretty cool.
Did you just go up and say, “Hey Miss Brazil, mind if I sit down?”
I don’t remember exactly how it happened. I don’t think that’s how it went; I’m not that slick. But between the people I was with and the people that she was with and had there, I think something about racing came up and then we got to talking.
11. What’s something about yourself you’d like to improve?
A lot of things. (Laughs) Just a lot of things come back on the track, trying to go faster in these things, trying to understand these cars, trying to understand the bump stops, the splitters on these things. It’s all very different from everything I grew up racing, and I think that’s been the hardest thing for me to adapt to. I feel like the cars feel more like a go-kart now than a stock car in a lot of ways, and that was not my upbringing. So it’s been a challenge for me.
12. The last interview I did was with Aric Almirola. His question was: Why did you agree to do this interview?
Why the heck I agreed to do this interview? Because Kelly (Boyd, his public relations rep) told me I was going to do this interview.
It’s that simple, huh?
Yeah, pretty much. It’s always fun to do something that’s a little bit outside of just the racing questions that you get every week, and I think you’ve hit on something here that makes it a little more enjoyable than the normal one.
You’re making me blush. Anyway, I’m going to the IndyCar championship next week, so I’m probably going to do the next 12 Questions with an IndyCar driver. Do you have a question I can ask one of them?
What made them crazy enough to strap into one of those things? And that’s not insulting in any way — they’re braver than I, I will give them that.
Those dudes, I watch them and go, “What are they doing?”
(Laughs) It looks awesome and I bet it is so much fun to drive, but I could never convince myself to do it. No way.
This interview was brought to you by Dover International Speedway. The cutoff race for the first playoff round takes place at Dover on Oct. 1. Here’s a link to buy tickets (and make sure to come say hi at the tweetup).