The last time the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series raced at Phoenix International Raceway, James Buescher wasn’t around at the end to see the checkered flag. Worse, he wasn’t around to see the green flag.
What a difference a season makes.
Buescher enters Friday’s Lucas Oil 150 (8 p.m. ET, SPEED) at Phoenix as the series points leader with two races left in the season, a far cry from his perspective in the desert in February 2011.
Buescher — then starting his third full season in the truck series — failed to make the 36-truck field, missing out on qualifying by just two-hundreths of a second. The misstep arguably changed the complexion of the 2011 title race, where Buescher finished third, just 29 points behind champion Austin Dillon.
Now, Buescher leads the tailgate tour by 15 points over rookie Ty Dillon with a series-high four victories under his belt.
“Last time there we had a rough weekend, but this team has put that weekend behind us,” Buescher said. “I feel that all teams are on an even playing field heading into this weekend with the track going through a reconfiguration and resurface since the last time we raced there. To better prepare myself for this weekend, I’ve been watching a lot of film of previous races.”
Ty Dillon chopped six points off Buescher’s lead last weekend at Texas and is in the midst of what amounts to a four-man battle for the title. Seven drivers have a mathematical shot to hoist the truck series trophy at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but third-place Timothy Peters (25 points behind Buescher) and fourth-place Parker Kligerman (27 back) have the most realistic chances.
Kyle Larson, the newly crowned champion in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, will make his third career truck series start this weekend. He has finishes of 10th and sixth in his first two efforts.
The Race: Lucas Oil 150
The Place: Phoenix International Raceway
The Date: Friday, Nov. 9
The Time: 8 p.m. (ET)
TV: SPEED, 7:30 p.m. (ET)
Radio: MRN, Sirius XM Ch. 90
Distance: 150 miles (150 laps)