“Did we just become best friends?” Buescher laughed during a recent interview at Chicagoland Speedway.
To which Preece quickly replied with a smile of his own: “We did.” That left Buescher to put a spin on their friendship: “So which one are you, Will Farrell or John C. Reilly?”
They’re not Ricky Bobby nor Cal Naughton Jr. of “Talladega Nights” fame, but their fast friendship underscores the fact they’re more than just NASCAR teammates.
Rather, they’ve become bro’s both on and off the race track, as they strive to not only make each other better as drivers, but also build JTG Daugherty Racing into a stronger and more consistent NASCAR Cup organization.
And like brothers, there is a considerable amount of good-natured back-and-forth between Preece and Buescher.
“We have very similar personalities,” Preece told NBC Sports. “We’re both a little goofy, we love racing and we love anything with a motor and wheels. It makes it easy when you get along with a teammate and have similar interests.
“And when you talk about racing and race cars, your feels are pretty similar to where you can diagnose kind of the same issues you’re having and hopefully communicate those things with others and make the cars better. At the end of the day, that’s how you get better.”
“It’s been really good,” he said of their relationship. “This season, Ryan coming board, it’s been pretty seamless. It’s been cool to be able to have similar personalities, definitely similar interests and the same career. All those things add in where it makes it either work together and try to figure out how to make things faster.
“It’s always nice to have background from different places to pull, like Ryan coming from short-track racing and modifieds, whereas I’ve been in stock cars and big cars my whole career. They’re little things that help you bring in more information and things that you know have worked on along the way and that’s what has helped us get dialed in over the course of this season.”
At 28, Preece has become an older brother of sorts to the 26-year-old Buescher. But it’s the latter who has become a teacher. Buescher, a Texas native, is in his fourth full season in Cup, while Connecticut native Preece is a rookie in NASCAR’s biggest circuit.
“He’s kicking my butt right now, so he’s pushing me to be better,” Preece said of Buescher. “Usually, I’m kind of the person that’s pushed people to be better, and right now Chris is pushing me to be better.
“I’ve been getting a little bit more familiar with it. It’s more than just throttle and brake. What’s this feel that he has and try to find it. We’re narrowing down on it. Once we get there, it’ll be easier. Even though he’s younger than me, he’s pretty much my teacher and I’m okay with that. That’s fine.”
Added Buescher, “I think we learn from each other. We try and tune in on some of those little things. Because at the end of the day, it’s those little things that you build on to find that little bit of speed. It’s not as easy as one thing is going to find you a half-second on a weekend, it’s more like three or four things that will maybe get you a tenth of a second.”
The duo moves on to Daytona International Speedway for Saturday night’s Coke Zero Sugar 400.
“It’s one of those that’s a wild card of sorts,” Buescher said of Daytona. “There are a handful of drivers that have definitely adopted very well to it and typically can get real good finishes out of. For me, there’s a good amount of luck that goes into it as well, not getting caught in someone else’s mistake. That frustrates me from time to time, especially when you end up in one of those accidents.”
Buescher has enjoyed a decent start to the season, including three top-10 finishes (sixth at Charlotte, ninth at Atlanta and 10th at Kansas). He sits 22nd in the season standings, 82 points out of the final playoff spot.
Preece is 26th in the standings, with one top-five (third at Talladega) and one other top-10 finish (eighth at Daytona).
Buescher wrecked at NASCAR’s two biggest super speedways this season: 37th at Daytona and 30th at Talladega.
“For us, it’s so hard to give up any valuable points week in and week out,” Buescher said. “You look at the beginning of the season and have a certain amount of mulligans that you feel you may have to be able to still be where you want to be in terms of points and good runs, but we’ve used up two already on super speedways this season and that hurts.
“I try to have a positive attitude going into them and see them as an opportunity – and they are – but at the same time, they’re not my favorite races. We’ll put on a show one way or other. It may not be my favorite, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to sit back and ignore the race, so we’re going to put all the effort we can into it.”