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LAS VEGAS — At 25 years old, Chris Buescher isn’t quite sure where fans categorize him on NASCAR’s age scale. But the 2015 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion knows talented young drivers will occupy hauler spots for quite some time.
“I would say I’m barely in it at this point,” Buescher jokingly told NASCAR.com of the sport’s current youth movement. “I’m getting older in a hurry, but when we talk about the youth movement and everyone coming up, it’s the people that I’ve been racing with growing up. It’s all the same groups between ARCA, legends cars, late models … we’ve raced with (Ryan) Blaney and Chase (Elliott) and (Darrell) Wallace.
“We’ve all been a part of similar racing backgrounds. It’s pretty neat to say that many of us have made it to this point. … You look at the different generations of it and to say that we are the next group coming in is pretty neat.”
The driver of the No. 37 Chevrolet is in his second year with JTG Daugherty Racing and teammate AJ Allmendinger, an opportunity years in the marking. Kick-starting the 2018 season with a top-five finish (the third of his Monster Energy Series career) in the Daytona 500 is one way to remind those watching that he still has a lot he wants to accomplish in his career.
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However, Buescher also understands it’s important for the sport to continue to develop drivers, because without the opportunities given to him, he may not be piloting a car in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
“I think we all hope that we can get to that point and say that we’ve stuck around for 10 or 20 years,” Buescher said. “At the same time, you’re always going to have some movements. It did get to a point for a couple years where it did just get locked down. It became a full house and it was rolling. It’s changed in a hurry. With as many people as we’ve had retire and getting out, it’s really opened up a lot of opportunities. That’s what has made it easier to find our way here … the goal is to get our fans in the same age category as we are and bring them through the next 10 or 20 years as well.”
If you look around Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend, these aren’t the same faces you saw getting behind the wheel a decade ago … or five years ago. A self-proclaimed “anti-change” agent, Buescher believes what’s happening on and off the track is something fans are — and should be — excited for.
Buescher is embracing the change with enthusiasm. It’s surprising to him, too.
“I think we’ve seen some great things on track and some initiatives that have brought back some excitement to the sport,” Buescher said. “Like stage racing has really been a positive; fans have really embraced that including a lot of hardcore, old-school fans.
“You’re still going to have the people that would typically be (like) me and just can’t stand the changes, but I think overall it’s been a really good thing to try and get people rejuvenated.”
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Buescher is further embracing his age and fan base by running Natural Light as the primary sponsor on his Camaro ZL1 this weekend. This year’s sponsorship comes with a twist — Natural Light is giving away $1 million to help pay down college loans to 25 people who post a photo to social media holding a green “$” tab found in marked Natural Light packs.
“When you talk about a NASCAR weekend and what it’s about, it’s for people to come out and hang out. They tailgate and party and camp,” Buescher said. “It’s something that Natty Light obviously is a huge part of and people can get on board with that. Especially with college students being able to come out for three or four days on a weekend. I think it’s just a good matchup and where we think that we are headed in the next several years. If we can bring those people in now and try to get excited about what we have going on the race track every weekend.
“It’s an exciting sport. There’s a lot going on.”