CONCORD, N.C. – Team owner Jack Roush called bringing Chris Buescher back into the Roush Fenway Racing family the chance to fix a mistake from four years ago. And the longtime team owner was happy for that second chance.
“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.”
Buescher was named Wednesday as the new driver of Roush Fenway’s No. 17 Ford for the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season. He’ll replace Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who will complete his seventh season behind the wheel of the No. 17 at the end of the year.
“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 inked a driver development deal with Roush in 2009 and worked his way up from the ARCA Racing Series where he won the 2012 championship to the NASCAR Xfinity Series where he won Roush’s most recent championship in 2015. There was no room for the Texas native on the Cup side so he plied his trade at the sport’s top level with Front Row Motorsports (2016) and JTG Daugherty Racing (2017-19). Buescher made the playoffs with a Pocono win in 2016 with Front Row.
Due to his longstanding ties with Roush, the organization had a residual contract option on Buescher that was available to them if certain conditions hadn’t been met. That option came into play when Buescher had not yet reached a contract extension with JTG and reached out to the Roush organization about a potential return.
“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.”
The change comes amidst the sixth time in seven seasons that Stenhouse has not made the playoffs while his teammate Ryan Newman did make the 16-driver postseason in his first season at Roush. Newman’s 13.5 average finish is his best since 2015 and is something that the Roush organization is hoping Buescher can mirror in 2020. The new Roush driver has a career-best 17.6 average finish and that mark has improved in each of his full-time seasons. Buescher also has a solid relationship with Newman’s crew chief, Scott Graves, who was his crew chief for the 2015 Xfinity title.
“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.