Editor’s note: NASCAR.com continues its countdown of team previews for the Monster Energy Series season, ranked in order of best finish in last year’s owner standings. Today’s feature: JTG Daugherty Racing and drivers Chris Buescher and Ryan Preece.
JTG Daugherty Racing
Engine: Hendrick Engines
Drivers: Chris Buescher, No. 37; Ryan Preece, No. 47
Crew chiefs: Trent Owens (Buescher), Tristan Smith (Preece)
2018 standings: Buescher finished 24th in the final standings; Preece did not run at the Cup level at ’18, but Allmendinger finished 22nd in the final standings.
What’s new: Ryan Preece enters the fold to drive the No. 47 Chevrolet for JTG Daugherty Racing after the team parted ways with AJ Allmendinger following five-and-a-half seasons together. Preece, who was the 2013 Whelen Modified champion, scored two victories over the past two seasons running a part-time slate for Joe Gibbs Racing and wouldn’t have changed a thing about his path to the sport’s premier series. “I think the way I came up was the way … I mean, it prepares you,” Preece said. “I’ve been working and learning race cars and then winning. Learning to be a winner. I wouldn’t want to come up any other way.”
The team also flipped its crew chiefs back to the cars they started with in 2018 after a late-season change so Owens is back on the No. 37 and Smith is back on the No. 47.
The organization has a strong relationship with fellow Chevrolet team Hendrick Motorsports and will be utilizing engines and pit crew support from them. “We used their pit crew after the (Coca-Cola) 600, so that part of it we’ve been doing. It’s just a continuation,” Ernie Cope, JTG’s competition director told NASCAR.com. “The engines part is going to be new to us. We built all brand new cars. This year, we are using JTG cars, which we’ve never built our own cars. We used to buy cars from RCR. For the speedway stuff, so Daytona 500, it’s going to be Hendrick car, Hendrick engine. Atlanta will be a JTG car with a Hendrick engine.”
Outlook: Preece will be in a battle for Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors with fellow freshmen Daniel Hemric (RCR), Matt Tifft (Front Row Motorsports) and Tanner Berryhill (Obaika Racing). Buescher will be looking to push for a playoff spot – his first since qualifying for the postseason in his rookie season of 2016. With Hendrick horsepower under the hood, the two-car fully funded team is primed for a solid surge this year.
Team co-owner Tad Geschickter has his eye on one goal in particular. “We need to make the playoffs,” Geschickter told NASCAR.com. “We’ve progressed — we’ve gone from 30th to 25th to 21st. It’s a big jump and we know it’s tough, but we are not going to be satisfied unless we are knocking on the door of the playoffs at the end of the regular season.”
Chris Buescher, No. 37 Kleenex Wet Wipes Chevrolet: Buescher enters his fourth season at the sport’s top level – and third with JTG – as the team’s elderstatesman. His top performances in 2018 both came at Daytona – a pair of fifth-place showings – meaning confidence is high entering the season’s opening race. Buescher, the 2015 Xfinity Series champion with Roush Fenway Racing, has one career Monster Energy Series win – at Pocono – from his rookie season spent with Front Row Motorsports in 2016. From there, he moved to JGR and being in one place for the past few years is a welcome feeling for the Texas native.
“It is really nice to have that relationship and be able to be in the same place and the same car without a bunch of moving pieces for now the third year,” Buescher said. “For me, that’s something I haven’t had in a long time and can really appreciate. I feel like that can only help going forward. To be able to build a relationship. Not starting fresh every season. You know your team. You know what’s going on in the shop and what’s changed from the previous year to now. I can visually see the improvements going on and just makes me feel more confident heading into it than coming in cold turkey.”
Ryan Preece, No. 47 Kroger Chevrolet: Preece makes the move to the sport’s top series after driving for Joe Gibbs Racing over the past two seasons in a part-time role. During those 19 starts at JGR, Preece scored victories at Iowa (in 2017) and Bristol (in 2018). The 28-year-old Connecticut native has made five career Monster Energy Series starts – all in 2015. His ride at JTG represents a big opportunity for the driver whose bet on himself at JGR paid off in a big way with a full-time ride at the sport’s top level. He will be competing for Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors as well.
Team co-owner and five-time NBA All-Star Brad Daugherty is bullish on what Preece brings to the program. “Ryan, he’s a little bit of a different animal,” Daugherty told NASCAR.com. “He’s a racer through and through. His expectations are extremely high so we want get him through the dog days of being a rookie and learning. Hopefully, he can gain enough insight and keep his confidence when we get into the dog days of racing — June, July — that we start to see a tick up in performance and he can start getting comfortable. I’m really optimistic that he’s going to be really, really great for our program and we’re hoping he can push us because he is a racer.”
• Jan. 22: Assorted teams
• Jan. 23: Richard Petty Motorsports
• Jan. 24: Germain Racing
• Jan. 25: Leavine Family Racing
• Jan 28: Front Row Motorsports
• Jan. 29: JTG Daugherty Racing
• Jan. 30: Wood Brothers Racing
• Jan. 31: Roush Fenway Racing
• Feb. 1: Richard Childress Racing
• Feb. 4: Chip Ganasssi Racing
• Feb. 5: Hendrick Motorsports
• Feb. 6: Joe Gibbs Racing
• Feb. 7: Stewart-Haas Racing
• Feb. 8: Team Penske