Going into the Camping World Truck Series race at Kansas last year, James Buescher was poised for a strong showing. He started the 2012 season with a 17th-place finish at Daytona, then rebounded to take third place at Martinsville and second place at Rockingham. The momentum continued at Kansas, when he took his first trip to Victory Lane in the series.
This year, things are looking a bit different ahead of Saturday's SFP 250 (2 p.m. ET, SPEED). Despite strong qualifying and steady top-15 finishes, Buescher hasn't been able to crack the top 10 this season.
"We've run in the top five every race this year and have two 14th-place finishes and a 13th to show for it, and that's not what these guys deserve," Buescher said. "So, (I need to) find every way I can to go into Kansas with some good luck, because we haven't had it."
Even as the track's most recent Truck Series winner, Buescher isn't confident he'll have an easy time defending that title. The speedway was repaved last summer, meaning drivers in the Truck Series will be taking to a whole new Kansas.
"There's only been one race there since they redid it, so it's a totally different racetrack," Buescher said. "It's like we're going to someplace we've never been in a truck, so I really don't know what to expect. When we get there, I hope we're fast enough to go win the race again, but it's a completely different race track now than it was a year ago."
Even with his early struggles, which included a spinout caused by a flat tire last weekend at Rockingham, Buescher's Turner Scott Motorsports team as a whole is seeing a strong start to 2013. Buescher remains seventh in the points standings, with teammate Jeb Burton in second. Burton has won two poles and hasn't finished outside of the top 10 yet this season, while Kyle Larson headed to Victory Lane last weekend at Rockingham. Miguel Paludo, one spot ahead of Buescher in the standings at seventh, has two top-10s, and is more optimistic about returning to Kansas after a top-10 at the track last year.
"I'm pretty confident about Kansas," Paludo said. "We got a great run last year there, so I'm looking forward to it. We're thinking about taking the same truck to Kansas, it ran so good there."
TSM's biggest threat will most likely come from ThorSport Racing, a team with Matt Crafton, Johnny Sauter and, so far, unstoppable momentum. Neither has finished outside of the top-10 this year; Sauter has two wins and a fourth-place finish. Both are looking to keep the streak alive.
"We won the truck race there (at Kansas) a couple years ago, but it's got new pavement so I'm sure the whole place looks different and races completely different," Sauter, the current points leader, said. "Not exactly sure what to expect. I think it's the same for everybody in the Truck Series so having said that, I'm sure it's fast, I'm sure it's smooth, so we'll just have to go there and do our best."
Crafton, who hasn't yet raced at Kansas, isn't expecting the kind of racing drivers saw at Rockingham last weekend.
"New pavement sucks, to be totally honest," he said. "I hate going to new pavements? just when the track had character and you start moving around, they repaved it."
Only Sprint Cup drivers Joey Logano and Kyle Busch will have raced on the new surface at Kansas going into Saturday's SFP 250. Their entries may put Brad Keselowski Racing and Kyle Busch Motorsports into contention against ThorSport and TSM, but the latter teams have weeks of strong finishes behind them.
"We'll just keep doing what we're doing, take the momentum we had at the end of last year and roll with that," Crafton said. "The last five races of the season we were really, really good last year? we could have won each and every one of them, and we've been good every week this year. At the end of the day, you need to keep doing what you're doing, not have mistakes."
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