Chris Buescher returning to Roush in 2020, replacing Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

by Justin Nguyen

Chris Buescher is heading back to Roush Fenway Racing. On Wednesday, the team announced the former Roush driver would rejoin the organisation for the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season, replacing Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the #17 Ford Mustang.

“We are certainly excited to have Chris back in the fold at Roush Fenway Racing,” team owner Jack Roush said. “He has a long history with our organization and we’ve always been a big fan of Chris and his racing style. We have watched his progress with great interest over the last couple of seasons and we are looking forward to having him in the No. 17 as we continue to grow our program next season.”

A former development driver for the team, Buescher raced full-time for RFR in the Xfinity Series from 2014 to 2015, where he won three races and the 2015 championship. After making sporadic starts in the Cup Series in 2015 with Roush ally Front Row Motorsports, he became a full-time member of the team in 2016. Later in his rookie year, he scored his first Cup victory in a fog-shortened Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway; although he would only record one more top ten that year, the win clinched him a spot in the playoffs.

Buescher moved to JTG Daugherty Racing and the Chevrolet camp in 2017. In his first two full seasons with the team, he recorded five top-ten finishes with a best race finish of fifth at Daytona International Speedway in July 2018. After twenty-eight races into the 2019 season, he is twentieth in points with four top tens and a best run of sixth in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“Jack Roush and (team co-owner) John Henry have emphasized that they believe in my ability to compete at a high teed in their race cars; and that is the expectation,” Buescher commented in a Twitter statement. “This is a bit of a homecoming for me and I am very excited to be able to return to Roush Fenway and pick up where we left off in 2015; winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship.”

Stenhouse, who has two titles in the Xfinity Series, has raced full-time for Roush’s Cup stable since 2013. After winning Rookie of the Year honours in 2013, he broke through in 2017 with restrictor plate wins at Talladega Superspeedway and Daytona en route to a career-best thirteenth-place points finish. However, he has struggled in the two years since, including a 2019 campaign in which he sits twenty-third in the standings with just two top tens; like Buescher, the Coca-Cola 600 saw his best run of the year, finishing in fifth.

“We can’t say enough about Ricky and his contributions to Roush Fenway Racing,” Roush added. “We’re proud to have been a part of Ricky’s development from ARCA to Xfinity and ultimately the Cup Series. He has served as a great representative to our partners, while helping to accumulate numerous accolades, wins and multiple championships on the racetrack. We wish him well as he enters the next chapter of his career.””

With the move, Stenhouse’s 2020 plans and a replacement for Buescher in JTG’s #37 are unknown. FRM’s #38 car has yet to be filled after David Ragan announced his retirement, while Richard Childress Racing‘s #8, which will be vacated by Daniel Hemric following his release, will presumably go to RCR Xfinity driver Tyler Reddick.

“We were in the final strokes of the contract when learning that Chris has gone in a different direction,” JTG owner Tad Geschickter stated. “We appreciate all of the efforts from Chris through the past three seasons at JTG Daugherty Racing. When the dust settles, we will begin the process of searching for our next driver to fill the No. 37 seat for the 2020 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.”

In his Twitter post, Buescher added, “I am forever grateful to Tad and Jodi Geschickter, Brad Daugherty, and Gordon Smith for giving me the opportunity to drive for them over the past three years.

“I am thankful for Competition Director Ernie Cope, and the 120 or so great employees at JTG/D that work tirelessly to afford myself and Ryan Preece, a great friend and teammate, the equipment to compete at a high level. With phenomenal leadership from Crew Chief Trent Owens this year, the No. 37 Team has exceeded expectations with great overall results and I intend to finish the year off strong and strive to bring JTG/D a win.”

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