When Plano, Texas native James Buescher started racing Bandoleros on the .2-mile Lil' Texas Motor Speedway, he never thought he would end up in the NASCAR ranks. Fast forward 10 years later and the 22-year-old Buescher has wins in two of NASCAR's three major series, and he's becoming an annual contender for a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship.
Last season, Buescher finished a career-best third in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship despite missing the series' second race in Phoenix. He raced his way into contention for the championship with consistent top-10 finishes week after week, but a couple of unlucky finishes near the end of the season cost him the title.
"We had a very successful season last year," Buescher said. "Someone made a comment that we had more points per race than any other driver in the series. We were very successful every race. We had a mishap early in the season and missed a race because we weren't locked in, but we worked hard to overcome it. We ran really competitive on a weekly basis on a variety of race tracks. It was a battle right down to the end."
Buescher has picked up this season right where he left off in 2011, earning four top-10 finishes in his six starts highlighted by his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory at Kansas. The consistency has him situated fourth in the series championship hunt, just 16 points behind the leader, Justin Lofton, as the series heads to Texas Motor Speedway for Friday night's WinStar World Casino 400 (8 p.m. CT start).
At this rate, he looks to be a contender for the championship again this season and should he capture his first title he would become the third Texan to win a major NASCAR championship, joining Corpus Christi natives Bobby and Terry Labonte.
"I started racing when I was 12," Buescher said. "I'd say that's a young start, but a lot of these drivers got started when they were four or five so I got a late start in the NASCAR world. But I worked at a fast pace. I'm only 22 right now, so it's been less than 10 years since I've been racing and it's been a whirlwind for sure."
Buescher's racing adventure started as a hobby with his father, Dean, as the two raced Legends and Bandoleros at Lil' Texas Motor Speedway, which is situated on the Texas Motor Speedway property adjacent to the TMS Dirt Track behind the backstretch grandstands of the 1.5-mile oval.
"It wasn't like when we started we said we're going to start racing so we can get to NASCAR," Buescher said. "We started racing because we thought it was fun. And it built from there."
By the time Buescher was ready for NASCAR competition, he had raced and won on every track at Texas Motor Speedway except the 1.5-mile oval. Buescher now has six NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts on the 1.5-mile track with two poles and a top finish of sixth (twice), but he's still looking for his first big Texas win.
"I'm trying to make it a perfect record at the facility," said Buescher, who swept the NCWTS pole positions at Texas Motor Speedway last season. "I definitely have that on my shoulders when I come back here. That's a goal I'd like to have is to win at my home track. That's pretty important to me."