Roush Fenway Racing recently announced that Chris Buescher will be taking over in the No. 17 Ford for the 2020 season, which means Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s run with the team will come to a close at season’s end.
Stenhouse succeeded Matt Kenseth in the No. 17 seat in 2013, claiming the first two wins of his career — both restrictor-plate victories — in 2017. Stenhouse has struggled to stay competitive since.
The 31-year-old has just one top-five finish this season and ranks 23rd in the standings, leading Roush Fenway president Steve Newmark to say the relationship with Stenhouse Jr. “had kind of run its course,” and offered a behind the scenes look into the decision.
Newmarket told Claire B. Lang on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Jack’s Garage,” that the decision was “difficult on a lot of fronts.”
He then noted that “interesting circumstances” led the team to pursue Buescher, who won the 2015 Xfinity Series championship with Roush before spending the last three seasons with Front Row Motorsports and JTG Daugherty Racing.
“At the end of the day, we, as in Roush Fenway, didn’t do our jobs and didn’t fulfill our obligations to extract the most out of the 17 program,” Newmark told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, as transcribed by NBC Sports. “I think there was a lot of potential there with Ricky as a talented driver and overall, and we just weren’t able to put everything together to make it as successful as quite frankly (owner) Jack Roush expects it to be, which is competing for wins and champions. That’s on our shoulders and that’s obviously a tough decision to make. We determined it just kind of (had) run its course and it was probably time to make a change.
“On the flip side, there’s obviously quite a bit of excitement about bringing Chris back into the fold. It really is a homecoming, of course. He signed with us when he was 16 years old, 10 years ago, and had our last championship (Xfinity in 2015) and I think he’s always been someone we view as your quintessential Roush Fenway driver in how he approaches racing and everything he does. I think there’s a lot of excitement to have him back in the fold because we think he can excel with the organization going forward.”