Chris Buescher on parenting, faulty speedometers and the Chick-fil-A deal that wasn’t: 12 Questions


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Each week, The Athletic asks the same 12 questions to a different race car driver. Up next: Chris Buescher of RFK Racing, who enters the NASCAR playoffs as the winner of three straight Cup Series oval races and the No. 4 seed overall. This interview has been edited for clarity and length. The full version is available on the 12 Questions podcast.

1. You must pick one chore or obligation to do every single day for a year. But if you make it the entire year doing this, you never have to do it again for the rest of your life. What would you like to knock out forever?

Washing windows. It’s because you never think about it when it’s nice outside. And I’m not very good at it in the first place. So if I could do it for a year to where they stay clean going forward, I’d be alright with that.

2. Can you describe how you are as a passenger in a street car?

I am terrible. I have trust issues. I get sick in the backseat of most vehicles. And I end up leaning way over to look through the middle to be able to see out the windshield.

And in the front seat, me and my wife were just having this conversation two or three days ago. I said, “Do I ever scare you?” I ride the white line (on the passenger side when I drive) because I don’t trust people in oncoming traffic. I drive a dually every day, so I have one tire sticking over in the dirt all the time. She said, “No, I’m just used to it now.” I’m like, “OK.” Because when I ride with other people, I feel like I’m in the ditch on the right side.

3. What is an app on your phone you love using and think more people should know about?

I use a speedometer app because I’m a little bit of a redneck at heart still, so I’ve got different-sized tires on all my vehicles and none of (the speedometers) read accurately. So I run a speedometer on my phone most everywhere I go, because I did get a “driving award” several years back, and it turns out my speedometer is off by about nine miles an hour.

Wow. That’s not a small difference.

No, and I was informed of that in a not-so-nice way. (Laughs)

The officer didn’t believe you?

He understood when I started talking to him, and he’s like, “Yeah, that’s a problem with doing this to stuff.” I knew it was off a little bit, but my bad.

I actually never knew that was a thing, so you just educated me.

See? That’s why our pit road speeds can vary so much. You can get tire diameter off just a fraction of a spot, and there we go speeding.

4. What do you do to make yourself feel better when you’re having a crappy day?

Go work. Go to the garage and tinker with something. That almost always helps. Half the time, it’s something that’s just going to make you mad at the end of the day anyway because you can’t get it done right or it’s been bothering you. But even with that being the case, it usually helps you feel a little bit accomplished.

5. I’ve asked readers to give me advice-column questions for life problems they are having. They’re all anonymous, and I’m mixing them up for each person. This person says: “I’m having issues with a co-worker and I’m her supervisor. We work in transportation, and only two people in the company know her job — and I’m the other person. I’ve tried being polite, helpful and supportive, but she has been insubordinate. Even though there’s a case to terminate her, I would hate to do that, because No. 1, losing your job sucks. And No. 2, I’d have to add her job to my responsibilities. So how can I go forward and work with this person?”

A not-good job is typically worse than no job being done at all, right? That’s the old saying of “doing it wrong is worse than not doing it all,” because you have to redo it anyway. … But I’m with you: Losing a job sucks, and I would hate to be in that situation, too.

There’s no good answer there. But if it’s being poorly done, and you’ve got to redo it anyway, it sounds like you’re already doing two jobs.

6. This question is from the societal debate category. Let’s say you’re driving and somebody is following you too closely and you’re on a one-lane road. They’re on your butt. So what’s the play here? Do you speed up, slow down, brake-check them a little bit? What are you supposed to do?

If I’m running my normal five over the speed limit, then I feel like I’m already doing a pretty good solid. So I maintain. I’m not worried about it. It doesn’t bother me none. That’s their problem.

And you could actually be doing 14 mph over, based on your speedometer.

Could have been. Don’t even know!

7. This next one is a wild-card question. Your daughter Charley is nine months old now. So what have these nine months as a parent taught you about yourself?

I’m more patient than I thought I was. And I care a whole lot less about what other people think than I realized in the past. Charley is great and (wife) Emma does fantastic with her. She’s well-behaved and she’s been in public places a lot and public situations. She’s not loud. …

There’s a level, right? No one wants to hear a screaming baby next to them, but she doesn’t do that. She does very well in public settings. So I’ve very much gotten to the point where as long as she’s within reason, I don’t care much about what other people may or may not think about it. And from what I’ve seen, people just like to interact with her anyway when she is cutting up a little.

I have a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old, and at first, I was probably on the side of “Oh my gosh, we’re making a scene.” But then you realize anybody who is a parent, they’re almost the other way, like trying to show you, “No, it’s all good.” It’s the people who aren’t parents that can get irritated quickly, but, sorry …

Most everyone has been on a flight with a screaming baby in the row behind you and you’re sitting there like, “Really? I got this lucky?” But even then, I’ve never been in a situation where I’m about to turn around and say something to somebody. I know it’s hard.

Chris Buescher heads into NASCAR’s playoffs fourth in the standings after winning three of the regular season’s final five races. (Meg Oliphant / Getty Images)

8. In your career, what is the deal that came closest to happening that ended up not working out?

Two different ones stand out. We went down to Chick-fil-A’s headquarters when we were Xfinity racing at Roush and spent a good day down there. We toured the facility, went through and had a lot of conversations. I felt like it was far enough along that something may come of it, but I was a lot younger then, so I didn’t have a good understanding of our industry.

And then way before that, before I got in the development program at Roush, I was in talks with Penske for a similar development deal that was fairly close. But it was very difficult to work out. They were Dodge at the time and I was still living with David Ragan’s parents and he was driving for Roush and had just gotten into the No. 6 Cup car at the time and was going to be helping me along the way in my career.

We got pretty far along the line there, but it got to the point where (Ragan) was like, “Man, this is gonna be really hard for me to help any when it’s a competing team and competing manufacturer.” I had to pivot on that one pretty quick. Fortunately, I was able to come in at Roush and present our case and was able to get in the program here.

It’s turned out to be a pretty sweet deal at the end of the day, so it all worked out.

9. Who is a person you’d be starstruck by when meeting them?

That’s tough, because I am not a big fan in that way. … Maybe I’m kind of spoiled with the fact I have gotten to meet a lot of cool people through the years. Early on when Travis Pastrana was at Roush, I was geeked out a little bit there because that was somebody who I grew up watching on TV. And I started on motorcycles, so I had a pretty good knowledge of Travis’ background and what he had accomplished.

10. What is the single most important skill a race car driver can possess?

Part of me says you just have to have a certain feel for a race car. That’s probably No. 1. Without it, you can do a lot of things right: You can market well, you can speak well, you can be as committed as anybody and put in more time (than others). But without a feel for what the race cars do and what you need it to do to be faster, I don’t know if any of that gets you far enough.

11. What life lessons from a young age stick with you and affect your daily decisions as an adult?

One thing that still sticks with me is for a birthday, I got a handful of gifts and got two of one thing. So I decided to trade one of my friends for something else they had gotten for their birthday previously. And I still remember how much that hurt my parents’ feelings at the time. That has certainly stuck with me ever since, to make sure you’re at least honest and upfront and say it’s something you would like to exchange or return — versus keeping it just for the sake of keeping it and to do something with it later and having them find out that way.

12. Each week, I ask a driver to give me a question for the next interview. (Note: We flip-flopped this week’s 12 Questions with Harrison Burton after Buescher’s Daytona win. Burton will appear next week.) The last one was with Harrison Burton and he was asking about a Ford team-building exercise you guys had. You were all playing blackjack for fake money and you could get raffle tickets. You were at a table with Harrison, Austin Cindric and Todd Gilliland, and Harrison said they were being really loud. He said you were laughing, but he couldn’t really read you and he wanted to know if you were annoyed with them for being super loud.

No, I was studying. They had been playing a lot longer at the blackjack table and I was a little late to the party. Jealousy kicked in a little bit because they were over there making all kinds of fake money and I was like, “Alright, I need to go figure this out a little bit and study what they’re doing.” So no, not at all. That was a good time. And they made a ton of money.

Best I can figure is me showing up as that fourth player, that threw the balance of the game off because then they lost a bunch of money. That may have been why they got loud, which I can understand. And then come to the end of the night, we were all just making very crazy, stupid bets that we would never do with real money — well, I would never do. I can’t speak for them.

The next interview scheduled is with Kyle Larson. Do you have a question I can ask him?

Dirt racing certainly comes to mind. How would he compare the late models to the open-wheel stuff and does he have any preference to them at certain racetracks? It feels like they get to beat and bang a little bit more, similar to our Cup races versus the sprint cars.

Also, how in the world do you make a lap in a sprint car when everything moves so quickly? That one’s always a little puzzling to me.

And then thirdly, when he retires from sprint car racing, I feel like (sprint car drivers) are in the perfect seating position to be a bus driver. So is that like a retirement option or plan going forward? I feel like it’s plug-and-play right out of sprint cars and into a bus.

I’m not going to ride with him. As we’ve discussed, I’m not a good passenger. But I would trust him a whole lot more than most people I have been on a bus with. But at the same time, I do not trust him to go the speed limit.



2023 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs: All 16 drivers and their chances to win the title

(Top photo: Chris Graythen / Getty Images)

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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