Team Preview: JTG Daugherty Racing

NASCAR

Chris Buescher joins AJ Allmendinger at JTG Daugherty Racing for 2017. (Photo: Getty Images)

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JTG Daugherty Racing is set to build on late-season success from a year ago with veteran AJ Allmendinger returning to the No. 47 entry while adding a second car for Chris Buescher.
 
The bulk of Allmendinger’s team stays in place from last season including having Randall Burnett as crew chief while Buescher will have Trent Owens atop his pit box.
 
"We had to move to a two-car team because we had so many sponsors on the car," Allmendinger said. "Not a lot of teams in NASCAR can say they had to go to a second car because they had too many sponsors.
 
"I have a great relationship with Tad (Geschickter, team owner)," Allmendinger said. "A lot of team owners are talking to him about how they do this, NASCAR’s talking to him about the sponsor side and he’s finally starting to get the credit he deserves. It’s special to see how the team was when I got here in 2013, I think they had about 27 employees and they were struggling. To see what it’s grown into in 2017 with all the people in the shop is crazy."
 
Allmendinger finished 2016 with four top-10 finishes in the final six races, ending the season 19th in points. But his nine total top-10 finishes made it his second-most successful season in 11 seasons competing in the Cup Series.
 
"During the summer, we lost our way with setups and struggled," Allmendinger said. "As we got to the end of the year, we started building cars back to where we wanted them. Randall (Burnett) and I learned a lot about each other in our first year together. Going into our second year, bringing Chris and Trent Owens over will be a bigger benefit for us."
 
The season-opening Daytona 500 will be a milestone for Allmendinger as he will make his 300th start at the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series level. But unlike any of his previous 299 starts, the Daytona 500 will be the first under NASCAR’s new enhanced race format.
 
"It’s interesting," Allmendinger said. "Good changes, more opportunities to score points."
 
After many months of rumors concerning a possible second team coming for JTG Daugherty Racing, it was finally announced in late November that Buescher, on loan from Roush Fenway Racing, would be joining the team driving the No. 37 machine and that he would bring a NASCAR charter with him which was formerly held by the No. 16 team.
 
"We’re still under contract with Roush but coming over this year to JTG, we’re working this season and getting integrated with everybody over there," Buescher said.
 
It’s the second year in a row that Buescher will drive for a new team. After winning the XFINITY Series title in 2015, he graduated to the Cup Series last year while driving for Front Row Motorsports. Moving to JTG Daugherty Racing for 2017, it’s the third team in as many years he’s driven for in NASCAR’s top two divisions.
 
"It's been a transition, coming over to a new team for the second year in a row trying to get to know everybody," Buescher said. "It’s been about as seamless as you could ask it to be. The atmosphere is awesome, a very family-friendly environment. Everybody’s got a great attitude and high hopes for this season.
 
"2017’s looking to be a great year. Looking at the momentum that AJ had in the second half of the season last year is promising and makes us optimistic to get rolling to Daytona, to Atlanta and onto that westerns swing."
 
Buescher’s freshman season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series brought a win at Pocono in August and a berth in the playoffs. But disappointing finishes at Chicagoland, New Hampshire and Dover knocked him out of a chance to move on toward the championship. Now back for his sophomore season with a new team, Buescher is ready to take on a more veteran status but understands he needs to tweak his driving style based on the new race format.
 
"Before the changes in the format, I thought I did a pretty good job learning about patience but now I don’t think it’s gonna help me a whole lot," Buescher said. "There are still some similarities. The racing probably won’t change a whole lot from the drivers' standpoint, but I think the strategy side could definitely get shaken up now.
 
"There’s going to be a lot to watch. I am not a fan of change in general I think I’m two software updates behind on my phone. But there are somethings I can see the need for and where they can be beneficial."
 
Buescher says his relationship with his new teammate was already strong before joining JTG-Daugherty Racing but that the off-season only helped to build a new friendship.
 
“I knew AJ a little bit more than the other drivers and then when we went through the off-season we had a couple events and I’ve gotten to know AJ very well,” Buescher said. “Very wide open. We all know AJ is probably the best road racer in the garage and the second half of last season they showed extreme promise speed wise.”
 
“Chris Buescher has a lot of talent, won a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race, to bring in him and Trent Owens - a lot of knowledge,” Allmendinger said.
 
“There’s a lot of good things that I think are gonna work to help us make things better,” Buescher said. “It’s good to have teammates to bounce things over. The alliance with Richard Childress Racing over there is already like having teammates but it helps to have everything under one roof.”
 
Allmendinger agrees that a second in-house team will also prove beneficial.
 
“It’s fun to be able to have a teammate. Having the RCR alliance has been great, but having a second car in your organization where you’re truly running the same stuff, as drivers I can bounce ideas and vice versa,” Allmendinger said.
 
“To see the growth from the end of November to now, what the team’s gone through, we’ve added over 30 people and cars are being built. It’s just awesome,” Allmendinger said.
 
Daytona International Speedway will open for NASCAR teams on Friday, Feb. 17, with the season-opening Daytona 500 scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 26. Motor Racing Network - "The Voice of NASCAR" will have live coverage of "The Great American Race" beginning at 1 p.m. (ET), with live streaming at MRN.com and on the MRN App.

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