The biggest shocker of the NASCAR Silly Season occurred on Wednesday when Roush Fenway Racing announced that they not only will let go of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. at seasons end, but will have Chris Buescher as his replacement in his No. 17 Ford.
No one saw this coming. Stenhouse, made note on NASCAR America this past summer that he had a contract in place with RFR for the next couple of years. So what happened?
No one really knows with 100 percent certainty but RFR must have held onto that option and they chose not to renew it.
It all boils down to performance. Stenhouse Jr. has been with RFR since 2009 and nearly lost his ride in the NASCAR XFINITY Series before a meeting Jack Roush turned things around in 2009. The Mississippi native rewarded that meeting with winning eight times in a two year span between 2010 and 2011 as he took home the season championship in back-to-back years.
That led to a full time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season for 2013 and beyond. But, Stenhouse has reached victory lane just twice in 248 career starts in the No. 17 Ford. Both occurred in the 2017 season.
RFR has stuck by him and even brought in Ryan Newman for 2019 to find more performance for both cars. Newman’s No. 6 Ford has been solid as the newcomer to RFR made the playoffs in his first season. He has scored two top five finishes and 11 top 10’s in 2019. By comparison. Stenhouse has just two top 10’s all year and is 26th in points. Newman has a third of Stenhouse’s career top 10’s with RFR in just 28 starts.
That’s the telling stat as to why Stenhouse is being replaced.
“We can’t say enough about Ricky and his contributions to Roush Fenway Racing,” said team co-owner and NASCAR Hall of Famer Jack Roush. “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.”
In comes Buescher. Why him? Well, Buescher also has a history with RFR as he won the 2015 NXS title with the organization when he drove the No. 60 Ford. He was once a development driver with the team and is technically under contract with them despite not having raced for them on the Cup level.
When Buescher was with Front Row Motorsports and even with JTG Daugherty Racing, RFR owned his contract. He was just on loan to those teams.
“We are certainly excited to have Chris back in the fold at Roush Fenway Racing,” said Roush. “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.”
Despite all of this, JTG was shocked to learn Buescher wasn’t going to be back. They were in talks of extending his contract with them for 2020 before being told that he won’t be back.
“We were in the final strokes of the contract when learning that Chris has gone in a different direction,” said Tad Geschickter, JTG Daugherty Racing team owner. “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.”