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JTG Daugherty Racing enters new era with veteran Chris Buescher, rookie Ryan Preece

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Chris Buescher had an amusing observation about the nature of his existence Wednesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

“I turn 26 and now I feel old,” Buescher said, addressing his new status as JTG Daugherty Racing’s veteran driver after a sponsor announcement by the team.

"(Team owner) Tad (Geschickter) made sure of it when he told all of y’all I was the veteran this season, so that is nice,” Buescher continued. “But I guess from that standpoint it is really nice to be able to have that relationship and be able to say that I’ve been in the same place and same car without a bunch of moving pieces for now the third year.”

Buescher ended the 2018 season as JTG’s youngest driver, trailing former teammate AJ Allmendinger by 10 years.

Two months later he’s still the youngest driver on team. But now he trails rookie teammate Ryan Preece by two years.

“It’s so funny, Chris is a veteran, he has been doing this for quite a while,” Preece said. “It’s taken me a little longer to get here, but Chris and I get along really well. He is a racer just like I am. He has had a different road than I have and I respect him coming to race with him.”

Buescher, the 2015 Xfinity champion, enters his fourth full-time Cup season. Before his time driving the No. 37 Chevrolet, he spent his rookie year competing for Front Row Motorsports where he won his first Cup race at Pocono Raceway.

Preece, 28, arrives in Cup after a successful gamble on himself in 2017 that delivered an expanded part-time Xfinity ride at Joe Gibbs Racing in 2018 and his second Xfinity win. Next month’s Daytona 500 will mark Preece’s first Cup start since 2015.

MORE: Ryan Preece is ready to ‘Turn the Page’

Preece, a Connecticut native who made a name for himself racing modifieds in the Northeast, said he would “absolutely not” trade his path to Cup for an easier one.

“I think I’m pretty biased when it comes to things like this, but 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.”

Buescher, a Texas native and former Roush Fenway Racing development driver, expects “a good fit” with his new teammate.

Together, they’ll try to deliver JTG its second Cup win. The first came in 2014 when Allmendinger won at Watkins Glen.

They’ll also try to improve on 2018 season results of 22nd (Allmendinger) and 24th (Buescher).

“I don’t know if I’m a veteran to the point where I can sit there and try and give someone a whole lot of advice because I’m learning at the same time,” Buescher said. “But I feel like it will be good for us to be able to go through our debrief meetings or at the race track after practice, be able to get together and compare notes and be able to figure out how to get better. I think that is something that communication should be good and we have been able to start talking about the season beforehand and I feel like it’s going to be really good.”

Preece, who is known for working on and building his own modifieds, will have to get used to letting someone else work on his car most of the time.

“One of the guys told me the other day ‘You better get used to standing around’ because I was fidgeting next to him,’” Preece said. “I was like ‘Hey, do you want me to help you?’ and he is like ‘No man, I want you to get used to standing there.’ I told him I didn’t think I could do that. ... I need to be hands-on.”

Preece will get to kick off JTG’s season when he takes part in the organizational test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway next week.

“I’m very excited to get in the seat, but I’m a racer, I want to win, I want to be at that point where we are making gains,” Preece said. “Right now, that is our plan.”