It's beginning to look a lot like 2012 for James Buescher. Considering the 23-year-old won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship last year, that's a good thing.
At Iowa Speedway last week, Buescher logged his best Truck Series finish for the second consecutive race and continued to tighten the gap on points leader Matt Crafton while moving up in the standings.
Through nine of the scheduled 22-race season, Buescher is third in points with 317. He's 40 points behind Crafton.
At this point in the 2012 season, Buescher was fourth in points with 313. He was exactly 40 points behind leader Timothy Peters.
"I do feel really good about where we're at," said Buescher, following his third-place showing in the American Ethanol 200 presented by Enogen on Saturday. "I feel like we're clicking on all eight cylinders right now."
Buescher had not been a factor in the points race until recently, opening the year with three consecutive finishes of 13, 14 and 14. In the six races since, he has five top-10s, the most recent of which were top-fives.
In the No. 31 Rheem Chevrolet of Turner Scott Motorsports, Buescher worked his way up from 12th in the field at Iowa to lead 39 laps. It was the first time he ran P1 since the fourth race of the year at Kansas.
After pitting during a caution on Lap 191 (of 200), Buescher's team was among the few that took four tires instead of two. Falling back from third place to sixth, the driver passed three trucks on the restart and hung onto his position when it went three-wide to finish third.
"Once we get bunched up in a restart, it's an opportune time to pass more trucks," Buescher said. "It might take 10-15 laps to get around one truck here on a long run. On the restart, you might get a really good restart and get lucky and get three or four in one corner."
Prior to Saturday's showing, Buescher finished fourth at Kentucky. He had no top-fives in the first seven races, although he did have consecutive sixth-place outings at Kansas and Charlotte.
The momentum his team currently owns was developed, in part, in a different series, too.
With the Truck Series having one week off between the races at Kentucky and Iowa, Buescher drove the No. 34 Chevrolet in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona.
Buescher not only led a lap, but he stormed through the field from his starting spot of 17th to finish second, the third time he's been runner-up in that series since 2011.
The entire No. 31 truck team became Buescher's No. 34 car crew, so the positive outcome wasn't solely something for Buescher to celebrate. Crew chief Michael Shelton, as well as the others in the pits, got to feel the glow.
That's helped the team get closer and be able to overcome minor mistakes -- like when Buescher missed a shift during the opening practice session at Iowa, destroying his engine.
"We still need to finish eliminating those small mistakes, but we're definitely heading in the right direction," Buescher said. "I think we're setting ourselves up to go back up our championship."
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