Chris Buescher is coming back to Roush Fenway Racing. And his return is at the expense of Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Roush announced Wednesday that it had signed Buescher to drive the No. 17 car for the 2020 season. The No. 17 has been driven by Stenhouse ever since Matt Kenseth moved to Joe Gibbs Racing for the 2013 season.
Buescher has spent the last three seasons driving the No. 37 car for JTG-Daugherty Racing. He won the 2015 Xfinity Series title while driving for Roush.
“We are certainly excited to have Chris back in the fold at Roush Fenway Racing,” team owner Jack Roush said in a statement. “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.”
Buescher, 26, is currently 20th in the points standings. His 31st-place finish at Richmond on Saturday was his first finish outside the top 20 since Dover in May.
Stenhouse is a two-time Xfinity Series champion
Stenhouse, 31, moved up to the Cup Series after he won back-to-back Xfinity Series titles for Roush in 2011 and 2012. His best Cup Series season came in 2017 when he won at Talladega in May and Daytona in July to make the playoffs and finish 13th in the points standings.
He missed the playoffs in 2018 and was 18th in the standings. 2019 has been even worse. Stenhouse is 23rd in the standings while teammate Ryan Newman is in the playoffs and well-positioned to make the second round.
“We can’t say enough about Ricky and his contributions to Roush Fenway Racing,” Roush said. “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.”
While Buescher has been a consistent finisher in the top 20 in 2019, Stenhouse hasn’t. His 15th-place finish at Richmond was his first top-20 finish in six races. He has two top-10 finishes to Buescher’s four in 2019.
Buescher was farmed out in 2016
Buescher’s first full Cup Series season came in 2016 when he spent the season at Front Row Motorsports on loan from Roush Fenway. He won the fog-shortened August race at Pocono via pit strategy and made the playoffs with the win.
The plan all along was for Buescher to end up in a Cup Series ride at Roush. But it’s safe to say that this isn’t the way the plan was supposed to go. With no funding for the No. 16 car following the 2016 season, Roush parted ways with Greg Biffle and shut the team down.
Buescher initially went on loan to JTG-Daugherty Racing as the team expanded to two cars and then ended up signing directly with the team ahead of the 2018 season as Trevor Bayne and Stenhouse started the season in Roush’s two cars.
Buescher has improved his points finishes in each of the past three seasons with JTG-Daugherty. He was 25th in 2017, 24th in 2018 and will likely finish higher than 24th in 2019.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports
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