Column By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – FORT WORTH, TX – A large banner on the broadcast center at Texas Motor Speedway loudly touts the “New Kids on the Track,” an homage to the 20-somethings who will propel the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series into the future.
Pictured on the banner are likenesses of Daniel Suarez, Bubba Wallace, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Erik Jones, William Byron and Alex Bowman, who collectively make up more than 15 percent of a typical Cup series starting field.
Clearly, the slogan derives from the Boston-based boy band New Kids on the Block, whose first incarnation was active during the 1980s and 1990s. That being the case, most of the “New Kids on the Track” weren’t around during the band’s heyday.
“We were actually just talking about it in the hauler, and I don’t know the New Kids on the Block,” Jones said after Friday’s opening practice for Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at the 1.5-mile track (2 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). “I was born in 1996, and the last year they were a group was 1995.
“They asked me what New Kids on the Block was, and I was like ‘Man, I’ve got to be honest with you, I have no idea.’”
Jones said he liked the banner, but not as much as the small one hung on the railing beside it, citing three-time winner Kevin Harvick’s pointing out that the average age of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series winners this season is 38.5, with the hashtag “old guys rule.”
“I liked the sign they put next to it better,” Jones said. “At first I thought Harvick actually put it there. I was like ‘That’s pretty funny,’ but then I realized the track did it.”
And for the record, the New Kids on the Block has reunited and has toured periodically since 2013. Donnie Wahlberg, perhaps the best-known member of the group, is now 48 years old.
DANCIN’ CHRIS BUESCHER CELEBRATES EVENTFUL OFF WEEK
Native Texan Chris Buescher may not be able to dance the Texas Two Step, but he took one very important step in his life during the Easter break in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule.
Buescher got married to long-time girlfriend Emma Helton.
“We went and got married over Easter weekend, so that was really good,” Buescher said. “Emma and I started planning last year before there was a schedule out for this season, and that made it very difficult because she didn’t want a winter wedding, and we didn’t know our off-weekends yet.
“We knew we wouldn’t be racing on Easter. And then it threatened to rain out Atlanta and threatened to snow out Martinsville. It seemed like Easter weekend was always the fill-in date. So it definitely had us nervous through all of that.”
But a wedding meant a wedding dance, and that’s what really had Buescher nervous.
“We took dance lessons,” Buescher said. “We did two lessons. The woman that did it did a fantastic job. We met up with her in uptown Charlotte, and she asked what we wanted to know and first off, what you already know.
“I don’t know anything. I can’t sway. I can’t even do that. I can’t sit here and act like I know what I’m doing. And she’s like okay, what do you want to learn? I said, ‘The Dirty Dancing lift at the end.’ And she said ‘All right, we’re going to back that down a bit.’ We compromised, and it actually came out really good. We were able to at least look like we had some clue of what we were doing out there.”
DANIEL SUAREZ RELISHES RACING FOR KIDS IN FRONT OF A “HOME” CROWD
Texas Motor Speedway isn’t Daniel Suarez’ home track, but it’s close enough that friends and fans from his native Monterrey, Mexico, can road-trip to watch him race.
“Texas is the only race track that I can have family, friends and all kinds of people from my hometown driving to this place,” Suarez said. “So this is a special place for that as well, because it’s not my home track, but it’s very close, so I can call this one of my home tracks.”
If a throng of supporters weren’t enough to motivate Suarez to earn his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, the driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs racing Toyota has additional incentives. He’s racing in support of sponsor Stanley Tools’ “Racing for a Miracle” program, which supports the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
Stanley has pledged $100,000 to the hospitals. Should Suarez win the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 on Sunday, the $100,000 becomes $1 million.
“I really hope that we do a very good race for these kids,” said Suarez, who visited the Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth on Thursday and met the four children who designed his car’s paint scheme for this weekend. “It would be a dream come true for me to bring these kids with me to Victory Lane.
“That would be something amazing, just like winning a championship, because when you get the opportunity to meet these kids, it brings a big smile to your face, and you can see that excitement that they bring to the car, to the race track and hopefully to Victory Lane.”