Students get driving tips from the pros

Staff Report June 24. 2014 10:48PM
NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers Dakoda Armstrong, left, and Chris Buescher speak with Trinity driver's education students during a visit at the Manchester high school on Tuesday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

MANCHESTER -- Members of the driver education class at Trinity High School got driving tips Tuesday from two young men who race cars for a living.

The two men, who will race in the Sta-Green 200 July 12 at 3:30 p.m. at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, are in the development driver program. Chris Buescher, 21, originally from Texas and now living in North Carolina, is driving No. 60 for Roush Fenway Racing.

Dakoda Armstrong, 21, originally from Indiana, is also now living in North Carolina. He signed first with Penske Racing as a development driver, but took a detour to race trucks. The 2014 season is Armstrong’s first full season in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, driving No. 43 for Richard Petty Motorsports.

The NASCAR Nationwide Series is the step below the Nascar Sprint Cup Series. Both men were Automobile Racing Club of America Racing Series Rookie of the Year, Armstrong in 2010 and Buescher in 2011. Buescher was also the ARCA Racing Series Champion in 2012.

But Tuesday afternoon, both were in the Trinity parking lot to answer questions for Michael Healy’s students, pose for pictures and, most important, ride along with the students and offer pointers for safe driving off the race track.

But before climbing into vehicles with students, the race car drivers distilled their advice for the students. Armstrong advised at high speed or on city roads, look ahead, watching ahead: “It’s the other people you have to watch out for.”

Buescher phrased it more concretely: “Don’t drive five feet ahead. Try and drive 50 feet out.”

Zara Morrissey, 16, of Manchester, can identify with Buescher’s advice. She has trouble with sharp turns on corners, maybe because of where she’s looking.

Morrissey is taking driver’s ed for the second time.

“I failed the written (exam),” she said.

She gives points to her parents for their attitude when she’s behind the wheel. “They’re actually pretty calm,” she said.

Merrimack resident Thomas Watson, 16, said he has his cellphone with him when he’s practicing, but he said: “I don’t look at it.”

There’s Bluetooth in the car, but his phone is not connected. If it rings, he asks someone else to answer it. When he gets his license and is in the car alone, he said, he’s planning to get an earpiece.

Caleb Wagner, 15, of Nashua, admits that when he got behind the wheel: “It was pretty scary at first.”

He usually practices with his mom, who sometimes, he said: “Gets a little anxious.”

Distracted driving

When he first got behind the wheel in February, he said he had a problem with “me getting kind of distracted.” So his mom had a right to be a bit anxious.

Sixteen-year-old Bethany Hart said she’s been driving for a while. “Since I was 13,” said the Manchester resident. Why is she taking it now? “Because it’s mandated,” she said, if she wants a license at her age. When driving, she said: “You get into some kind of mind state.”

The two racers have been driving something with wheels since they were young children.

Armstrong started at age 6 with go-karts and won the 1998 World Karting Association Championship in his first year of racing. He went on competing and collecting more than 200 wins in go-karts, quarter midgets, bandolero, micro/mini springs, Kenyon midgets, 410 non-wing sprint cars and midgets. He’s also raced trucks, when taking a break from cars.

Buescher was all of 6 when he began racing motorcycles, moving over to the Bandolero Series at age 9 and winning at the nationals in 2004, at age 12. He then moved to the Legends Car Series in 2005. The following year, at 13, he was the youngest winner in the pro division of the Legends Car Series Summer Shootout.

Slowing down

The two speedsters did admit it’s sometimes hard to slow down. “I’ve had a few speeding tickets,” Armstrong admitted.

Buescher said he’d been stopped, but got off with a warning “by not talking back.”

Asked if playing driving video games helps in real life, Armstrong said: “Yes.”

Buescher was more cautious. “I’m on the fence,” he said. While it might help coordination, he cautioned: “Don’t ever think because you played a video game, it’s going to help you on the road.”

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