Sean Gardner | Getty Images
Sean Gardner | Getty Images

Chris Buescher out at Gateway due to COVID-19 protocols; Zane Smith to drive No. 17

RFK Racing announced Thursday evening Chris Buescher, driver of the team’s No. 17 Ford, will miss this weekend’s inaugural NASCAR Cup Series event at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway after testing positive for COVID-19.

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NASCAR Camping World Truck Series front-runner Zane Smith will fill in for Buescher, piloting the No. 17 Acronis Ford Mustang as NASCAR makes its much-anticipated return to the St. Louis area.

Buescher currently sits 21st in the points standings, 14 points below Kurt Busch and one point above Michael McDowell. Through 14 regular-season races, Buescher has notched three top 10s and is among the drivers battling for a spot in the NASCAR Playoffs based on points.

Buescher expects to return to action next week at Sonoma Raceway, according to the team.

Sunday will be the first Cup Series start for Smith, who has three wins and eight top-10 finishes in 10 starts in the Camping World Truck Series this season. He has also led a series-high 253 laps while piloting the No. 38 Ford F-150 for Front Row Motorsports. He will become the 24th driver to pilot an RFK Ford for Jack Roush in the Cup Series.