Jack Roush is getting a chance to make right what he once felt he did wrong.
Roush is bringing Chris Buescher back into his fold to take over the No. 17 Ford from Ricky Stenhouse Jr. beginning in 2020. As team president Steve Newmark described it, this is a bit of a homecoming since Buescher was once a development driver for Roush and also competed for the organization in the Xfinity Series, where he won the 2015 championship.
However, after that championship season the Hall of Fame team owner admitted he didn’t have the courage to stress the organization and its resources to make room for him, not wanting to take away from the existing NASCAR Cup Series teams by graduating Buescher into the series. Buescher wound up loaned out to another Ford team when he took a full-time Cup Series ride with Front Row Motorsports. For the last three seasons, he has been with JTG Daugherty Racing.
“And I wish I had done that differently,” said Roush, “and we’ve got a chance now to build behind him.”
The deal came together both quickly and unexpectedly.
Buescher had not been lying about working through the details of a deal with JTG Daugherty Racing. However, there was a residual option in his contract that Roush Fenway had retained many years ago that made Buescher obligated to tell Roush officials when he might become available.
“This wasn’t something we’d been planning for quite some time,” Newmark said. “We’d been focused primarily for the last however months on trying to get the 17 into the playoffs, and that was our focus, we weren’t looking at other things, and unfortunately, and it’s on the shoulders of Jack and the competition folks and myself, that we weren’t able to accomplish that goal and extract the potential from that program.
“Around the same time, we were alerted from something from Chris and his representative about a residual option… and through some circumstances that arose from JTG and Chris, that option that came about and that was kind of put back on our plate. We talked to our board and Jack and John Henry at the Red Sox. They had a lot of discussions about what the right direction was, and ultimately decided that it would be best for our organization and exercise that with Chris. So that, literally, did come together this week and next morning we sat down and talked with Ricky and then I called Tad (Geschickter of JTG).”
At the end of the day, the decision to return to Roush was up to Buescher.
“First of all, JTG has come so far, and we’ve had a terrific year,” Buescher said. “There’s nothing against anybody there. It’s been a terrific time, we’ve definitely been able to elevate from where we’ve been in the past couple of seasons, and I believe that program will continue to elevate.”
Roush said it was “a really tough question” about whether Stenhouse would still be with the team had Buescher not been available.
“First of all let me say about Ricky – his chapter of involvement with Roush Fenway will be remembered very fondly,” Roush said. “He was certainly a great representative, he brought a level of intensity that’s required that very few drivers [have], and he was true to himself in terms of reaching for his own race car for the things he thought would be best for him, and that’s a good fight. We certainly respect that. we respect him and will remember fondly and very positively the time he spent with us
“But the fact is over the last couple of years we weren’t realizing the improvements that we need to do, and I had to look at myself and the organization and say, are we just not doing what we need to do or is it time for Ricky to step off and seek better accommodations, a better package for himself with another program. It’s hard to say if I would have made that change. Certainly, I was thinking about what would be best for Ricky and what would be best for us, and it was on my mind.”