Team owner Kevin Buckler says that last weeks announcement of an entry into the Daytona 500 is part of a longer-term plan to take his TRG outfit 'to the next level'.
The sportscar outfit continued its run of success in the Grand Am Rolex Series in the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona with a 1-2 finish in the GT class and will now turn its focus to the biggest event on the NASCAR calendar next month – where it will field the #71 Chevrolet for veteran driver Mike Wallace.
However, Buckler insisted that his team wasn't heading to the 500 simply to make up the numbers and was focused on securing the best result possible on its Sprint Cup bow – having enjoyed success in the Truck Series last year.
“We own a little NASCAR team which we started last year,” he explained during the Rolex 24 weekend. “It was an ongoing endeavour with several of my friends. We have raced our way to the front of the sportscar world and are locked and loaded and full there. We have kind of run out of runway a little bit and wanted to take a swing at it in NASCAR. We started a Truck team last year and had a great first season with a win and ten top-tens, which was an unbelievable first year.
“Myself and my partners and friends said, with the way the economy is shaping up and the possibility of a few less entries when our goal is to race in the Sprint Cup, why don't we see if we can get a car in the 500? So I started to look at it and put the right pieces in place – just like we do here. I didn't want to do a 'park and start' where you start out and hope to just make the field. We are coming here to race and we have a good car, a good driver and a good crew. We might come here and not even qualify, but we'll give it our best shot.”
However Buckler added that he had no illusions over how difficult the move into the Sprint Cup will be on the grandest stage of them all and said it was important for his team to go into the event with its eyes open.
“It's always going to be hard,” he said. “The level of competition in NASCAR, in any of the three series', is incredible. A lot of times, the big mistake someone like me would make is to underestimate how good these guys are; but they are good. We have a technical alliance with Richard Childress to act as a kind of mothership. It's our team, our car and our stuff but if we need to lean on them a little bit for some information then we can. It will be real difficult and we will have a steep learning curve, but we have to learn.
“We are trying to launch ourselves into the upper echelon of NASCAR and the ultimate goal is to be involved in the Sprint Cup. I'm very proud of the job our team has done on the business side of thing and we have put together a great little marketing group and have people involved in hospitality – a little bit ahead of our time in the sportscar and Truck side, but definitely not in the Sprint Cup as those guys are good. But ultimately, we want to take ourselves to the next level.”