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The Son-In-Law Is Rising At Turner Motorports

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, June 29 2012

James Buescher, winner of Thursday's Camping World Truck Series race at Kentucky, is married to racing. (RacinToday/HHP photo)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

The lifetime commitment James Buescher made when he married Krishtian Turner has not guaranteed long-term job security with his NASCAR team-owner. Fellow-Texan Steve Turner not only fields the Camping World and Nationwide series vehicles Buescher is driving in 2012, he also is James’ father-in-law.

“At times, it’s very, very awkward,” Kris Buescher said of the relationship between the main men in her life. “They balance it out. But there are times when it’s…awkward.”

Indeed, the man Buescher respectfully refers to as “Mr. Turner” expects that James’ extended honeymoon includes Turner Motorsports’ first Truck Series championship at season’s end.

“That’s what he has to do to have a job next year with me,” Turner said in the aftermath of Buescher’s breakthrough Truck Series victory at Kansas Speedway in April. “We had the title in sight last year and gave it away. And I’m saying WE gave it away as a team. We’re not going to give it away this year.”

Duly motivated, Buescher became the first NCWTS repeat winner of the season Thursday night at Kentucky Speedway, leading 119 of 150 laps of the UNOH 225 en route to a 3.805-second victory over Sprint Cup star Brad Keselowski in his BK Racing entry. Buescher posted the fourth-widest NCWTS margin of victory in track history and became the 12th different series race-winner in 14 events. Buescher

The boss expects a lot from James Buescher. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

previously had won a 150-mile ARCA Racing Series event on the 1.5-mile layout in Sparta, Ken., on May 9, 2009.

“I’m just really proud of everyone on the Turner Motorsports Team,” said Buescher, driver of the No. 31 Exide Batteries Chevrolet Silverado. “My wife told me (Thursday morning) she found a picture of the trophy on Twitter and she wanted it. You got to make the wife happy, so we got to Victory Lane.”

Buescher took the lead for the third and final time on Lap 108, survived a restart seven laps later and pulled away from an entertaining battle for position between Keselowski and third-place finisher Ty Dillon of Richard Childress Racing.

Buescher, who earned his first career Truck Series victory on the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway on April 21, has compiled four top-five and five top-10 finishes in eight starts this season.

The night’s outcome pushed Timothy Peters of Red Horse Racing back into the championship lead with 306 points, four ahead of Dillon and former leader Justin Lofton of Eddie Sharp Racing. Buescher, who qualified third and began the night 23 points out of the championship lead, remained fourth overall but only nine points behind Peters.

Despite failing to qualify at Phoenix International Raceway early during the 2011 season, Buescher finished a career-best third in the point chase topped by Austin Dillon, Ty’s older brother and grandson of NASCAR championship-winning team-owner Richard Childress.

“Going into the (2011) season we thought we could contend for a championship and that was our goal,” Buescher said. “When we missed the race at PIR we said, ‘We screwed-up…Race No. 2, the season’s over.’ Then two-three races later we bounced back and ran up-front and started getting consistent finishes in the points. We started closing up fast. After a few races we realized we could still contend…we just couldn’t have any more mistakes. We were in contention all the way down to Homestead-Miami Speedway. I’m proud of my team for bouncing back from that start and contending.”

Buescher compiled an impressive list of stats last season, when he raised his Loop Data Driver Rating 9.6 points over 2010. He posted career-bests in poles (three), top-five (10) and top-10 finishes (19), average start (6.7), average finish (8.8), races running at the finish (23 of 24) and lead-lap finishes (20). Buescher also completed 95.7 percent of laps attempted and led a career-high 283 laps en route to an average Driver Rating of 99.82.

Still, in a sport where family ties run soul deep, father-in-law Turner insisted sentiment would not

James Buescher took the checkered flag at Kentucky on Thursday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

override the forward march of his Mooresville, N.C.-based organization.

“First and foremost, he’s my employee. I don’t play games with James,” said Turner, who launched Turner Motorsports, LLC, in 1999. “I’m probably harder on him than any driver I have. And I don’t kid about nothing. He don’t win the championship, he ain’t going to have a drive with me next year. He wins a championship, I’ll put him in a Nationwide car. That’s all he has to do. I think he’ll get there.”

Buescher’s win at Kansas Speedway moved him into second in the NCWTS point standings, four behind Peters . The early summer schedule included the first of two stops at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth for the 16th annual WinStar World Casino 400k night race. Buescher, who cut his racing teeth in Bandolero and Legends Cars at Lil’ TMS while growing up in nearby Plano, started fourth, led 34 laps and finished 15th in a race won by Johnny Sauter of ThorSport Racing.

For the record, Buescher’s first win of 2012 was scored in the Nationwide Series’ prestigious season-opener at Daytona International Speedway in late February, a little more than a month after he and Kris were married on Jan. 14 in Costa Rica. James turned 22 on March 26 and his Truck Series win at Kansas Speedway, where he led 103 of 167 laps, gave the couple another reason to break out the champagne.

“Yeah, everything seems to be clicking,” said Buescher, who is in his third full Truck Series season with
Turner Motorsports. “It’s one thing after another, something good happens. I just hope it continues that

James Buescher won the Camping World Trucks race at Kansas in April. (Chris Graythen for Getty Images)

way and doesn’t make a U-turn. Hopefully we can continue having these big moments in my life. I’m just enjoying every minute of it.”

Buescher scored an “overdue” win in his 80th NCWTS start at Kansas driving the No. 31 Progenex Chevrolet, which also carries sponsorship from Exide Batteries, AccuDoc Solutions and Koike Aronson, Inc.

“We knocked on the door a lot more than anybody else for their first win,” said Buescher, who became the youngest winner in ARCA history (16 years, 363 days) on March 24, 2007 in his series debut at USA International Raceway in Lakeland, Fla. “It seemed like every time we were in position to win something bad happened. As the laps were running down at Kansas, all I was thinking was, ‘What’s going to happen this time?’ I was glad that we made it to the end without getting a caution and never had any problems. It was nice to finally finish the deal off.

“When you first come into NASCAR you might be on top of your game anywhere else, but once you get here it’s different from any other series of racing. Everybody knows what they’re doing with every detail. Seems like the longer you’re here the easier it gets on a weekly basis. I’m glad to have all the experience I have in such a short amount of time. Experience is the key. If we have a fast truck and I’m struggling to pass somebody, I’m OK with riding behind them instead of forcing the issue. Knowing when to go and when to be patient is important, and I’m more patiently aggressive.”

Meanwhile, Buescher has approached Boss Turner’s championship-or-else ultimatum pragmatically.

“The Truck Series has been the focus for sure,” said Buescher, paired with crew chief Mike Shelton, with whom he won the ASA Late Model Southern Division title for Turner in 2006. “When Mr. Turner was talking about putting the Truck team together he (Shelton) was one of the first people he considered. We knew he could do it and he and I have learned a lot together the last two years…how to put the whole package together.

“We’re running for a championship in the Truck Series and in Nationwide I’m trying to learn the cars and be ready for if-and-when I get to go Nationwide racing fulltime. But the Truck side, it’s the focus every day. We’ve got as good a shot as anybody to win a championship this year – and not beat ourselves.”

Kris Buescher, also 22, met James when both were teenagers racing Legends Cars at Lil’ TMS. “We definitely didn’t have a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship on the track,” said Kris, who won TMS’ Bandoleros Winter Championship in 2005. “I beat him a handful of times, although James was very good.” James won TMS’ Bandolero Young Guns championship in 2004, his first racing title.

That background has helped Kris transition into the nomadic life of a racing wife.

“We’re both pretty open with each other and I can relate when he’s going through something with racing and it’s time to talk,” said Kris, youngest daughter of Steve and Sandra Turner. “I believe in him more than anyone does and know he has the drive to do it. He eats, sleeps and breathes racing _ what’s next and what can he do to become better. I think it’s (Truck championship) possible and he won’t stop until he’s accomplished everything he’s set out to do.”

Her husband, Kris added, is quite grounded for a guy basically living out of a motorhome between stops at their residence in the Houston suburb of Katy. “Here’s an example,” Kris said. “He won Daytona (Nationwide race on Saturday afternoon) and he and I got in the motorhome and drove back home. And on Sunday night he mowed the grass. We both do our own ‘stuff’ (chores) because we both want to make sure we stay grounded and remember where we came from. He doesn’t let anything go to his head, and I will make sure he never does.

“He’s in no rush to get to Sprint Cup. He still has a whole lot to learn. A lot of guys rush and get to Cup and they’re screwed. So we really haven’t talked about getting to Cup. Both of us are concentrating on winning the Truck championship.”

Eddie Gossage, TMS president/promoter, said Buescher has “an unlimited future” on a par with the talented and enigmatic Kyle Busch.

“James is a young guy who’s showing he’s aggressive but reasonably so, where Kyle sometimes obviously goes over the line,” Gossage said. “James has got skills that appear to be like Kyle did on his way up. And that’s a compliment because I think Kyle’s probably the most talented race car driver out there.

“For any racer, it’s a matter of decisions as time goes on and whether they put themselves in a good place. But he’s got all the potential in the world. And it’s exciting for us to have somebody local that can make it to the top. The Legends Cars he was racing here makes me think back to the first time I saw Dale Earnhardt Jr. in a Legends Car or David Ragan…young guys learning the craft. That’s what you’ve got to do – climb that ladder one rung at a time – and it’s cool that he started here.”

The son of Dean and Deborah Buescher, James’ ties to family date to his earliest racing experiences, when his father and brother also competed in Legends Cars at Lil’ TMS. Turner said it became “pretty obvious” to him that James would become a part of his extended family when he and Kris started holding hands at the racetrack.

“We pretty much raised James from there,” said Turner, racing then out of Hallettsville, Texas. “He spent a lot of time with me up-and-down the highway and it (their marriage) was pretty inevitable. But he did it differently than I expected. He came into my office one day and closed the door and asked permission to marry her. It was pretty honorable. If I had told him ‘no’ – he still would have done it.”

That said, Turner agreed James is mature beyond his years. ”You never have to worry about him doing anything I did when I was 22,” Turner said with a laugh. “He is focused, she’s focused and they have a real good start on where they want to go and how they’re going to get there. This is a tough business. Five years ago, this was an easy business. Kids would come in with talent and Cup teams would sign ‘em up. Now you’ve got guys with eight or nine years of experience looking for rides. James feels he’s really fortunate to be out there.

“We hope this ‘extended honeymoon’ lasts all year. We know we’re going to have a couple of tough races but think we can still add up the points. My feeling is he has to earn everything he gets to be successful. He’s not always going to be driving for me. He’ll be driving for other owners, so he’s going to have to earn it.”

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, June 29 2012
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