Roush Fenway Racing made a shocking announcement earlier this week that Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won’t be returning to his No. 17 Ford with them next season. No one and I mean no one, saw that coming.
Chris Buescher will come back to the organization that he won the 2015 NASCAR XFINITY Series championship with and be teamed back up with his crew chief that year of Scott Graves.
“It is not often in life you have the chance to redo a mistake,” Roush told media at Charlotte Motor Speedway ahead of this weekend’s Bank of America Roval 400. “I figured as I look back at the 32 years I’ve been involved in stock car racing, there are decisions I’ve made that I wish I could make over and fortunately this is the one I can make over.”
For Buescher, he says this is similar to a homecoming. He wanted to race in Cup with RFR but they had no room for 2016 and beyond. That led him to being on loan to Front Row Motorsports for 2016 and 2017 then signing a deal with JTG Daugherty Racing the last two seasons. Now that his contract is up, RFR figured the best time was now to bring him back.
“It is a homecoming of sorts,” Buescher said. “Signed up 10 years ago to go into that driver development program with Jack and everybody at Roush Fenway Racing. For me, that was a huge moment for myself and got going into stock car racing. I had six late model races before then – was basically fresh out of Legends cars so that was a big moment.
“For this opportunity to come now and be able to come back over – we ran the 17 number through our entire ARCA seasons and all but the last four races there, so that’s kind of a neat deal. Was definitely a Kenseth fan growing up and it was nice to be able to have him be somewhat of a mentor for a short period of time for while I was over there.”
Buescher started with a driver development role with Roush in 2009. He won the ARCA title in 2012 then the NXS title in 2015.
“We talked to our board – Jack and (co-owner) John Henry of (MLB’s Boston) Red Sox – had a lot of discussions about what the right direction was and ultimately decided that it was best for our organization to try and move forward and exercise that with Chris,” team president Steve Newmark said. “That literally came together this week.”
“We had so much trouble getting speed out of our cars,” Roush said. “With Ryan and with Matt Kenseth’s help last summer we identified some things we should be working on which had not been on our radar and worked on those things. When we put Ryan in the car, he fell right in line with what Kenseth had thought were the priorities and we see Chris falling in the same line.
“I look forward to having cars that are more similar for both drivers that we can develop from race to race without having so many wrecks. Ryan has done really well this year with keeping his car together and Chris has got a history of doing the same thing.”
For his part, Buescher has kept his car clean with a streak of 16 straight top-20 finishes that came to a close last weekend at Richmond. He has also logged 99.4 percent of the laps run entering this weekend’s race at the Roval.
While Newman is still in the mix for the playoffs, the organization has designs on having both its cars in the playoff field for 2020.
“I think some of the best days for Roush Fenway are in front of us,” Roush said.