Wednesday (Sept. 25) brought the announcement that Chris Buescher will make the move to Roush Fenway Racing, taking over its No. 17 Ford Mustang and displacing Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for the 2020 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.
Buescher won a NASCAR Xfinity Series title in the team’s No. 60 machine in 2015, making the jump to Cup the next year with Front Row Motorsports and moving to JTG Daugherty Racing the year after. After three seasons in the No. 37, he’s exponentially improved and run well.
Just Stay with JTG; Don’t Depart Daugherty
Roush picked up its option to bring Buescher back into the fold, but Buescher would’ve been better off staying at JTG Daugherty.
Buescher logged a streak of 16 straight top-20 finishes this season from Kansas Speedway in May to Las Vegas Motor Speedway in September. He’s recorded four top 10s in each of his three seasons with JTG Daugherty, but this year has by far been his best – and we’re not just talking about that streak.
His average finish has jumped up nearly four positions from 2018, he’s completed almost 4% more laps (even with the season not being over) and his DNFs have decreased over each season in the No. 37.
The team has seen a steady performance rate — for better or for worse – with Marcos Ambrose, Bobby Labonte and AJ Allmendinger running relatively well in the team’s No. 47 car.
JTG added the No. 37 Chevrolet in 2017 when Buescher came on board, and he recorded 17 top-20 finishes in his first year with the team. He added 18 the next year, including two top-five finishes, and he’s at 21 top 20s this year with still eight races remaining.
Buescher and the team have steadily improved over the course of the past three years.
The team also added rookie Ryan Preece in the No. 47 to pair up with Buescher in 2019, but Buescher has continued to be the standout – and with both drivers under 30, it would have been a great growth scenario for the team going forward.
If anything, it’s more than likely a lateral move for Buescher – both teams run around the same positions in most races. If JTG wanted to continue growing, allowing Buescher to leave its grasp and possibly being faced with an inexperienced driver in the No. 37 for next year will hurt the team.
We saw JTG fall back into the pack after Ambrose left the team’s No. 47 before 2011, and that slide continued before Allmendinger stepped into the car in 2014. The addition of a second car was a major stepping stone for the organization, and adding Preece was another positive step when Allmendinger left. However, this is another step back for a team that was starting to make strides.
I expect Buescher to be just as consistent with the move to Roush, but his presence at JTG caused that team to grow exponentially and helped that team to improve beyond what they had been before. He’s an incredibly solid, underrated driver who could’ve helped that team become even better. – Adam Cheek
Buescher Will Do Better
Buescher should be thankful he got the call from Roush. He’ll do even better there.
When Roush announced Wednesday (Sept. 25) that it had moved on from Stenhouse Jr. and that Buescher would hop in the No. 17 Ford next year, it came as a surprise to many. After all, Stenhouse’s contract was through the 2021 Cup Series season, and Buescher was doing well for JTG Daugherty this year.
Even though all of the above is true, this still sets up Buescher nicely for the future.
As mentioned previously, Buescher has had a remarkable year for the small team. He has four top 10s and was on a 16-race top-20 streak prior to last week’s 31st-place finish at Richmond Raceway. That’s an incredible streak considering where he often qualified. One of his top 10s came in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway where he finished the race in sixth. He also is averaging a Cup Series career-best finish of 17.6.
Aside from this season’s statistics, Buescher also has one win, four top fives and an additional eight top 10s in the Cup Series. That 2016 victory was thanks in part to a strategy play that worked out when fog rolled in at Pocono Raceway. It was Front Row Racing’s lone win outside of a superspeedway and Buescher’s first of two top fives at such tracks. His other top fives came last year at both Daytona International Speedway races.
As if his MENCS history wasn’t enough, don’t forget what he did in the Xfinity Series. Buescher earned three wins, 16 top fives and 36 top 10s in 74 starts with none other than Roush Fenway. In fact, he claimed two wins, 11 top fives and an astounding 20 top 10s in 2015, the year he won the NXS championship. He also ended each race on average 8.4 that year. All of these statistics prove he has deserved a well-funded ride for several years now.
In contrast, Stenhouse has had a rough season with RFR with just one top five and two top 10s thus far and has his worst average finish, currently 20.9, since 2015 when his averaged sat at 24.3. His teammate Ryan Newman, on the other hand, made the playoffs, has two top fives, 11 top 10s and completes each event at 13.5 on average. While Stenhouse does have two wins, both came at superspeedways and he has underperformed this year. Buescher will have a chance to acclimate to his new team and start achieving his goals.
One who may help him reach his goals is NASCAR veteran Newman. The wheelman of the No. 6 car has been racing full time in the Cup Series since 2002 with organizations such as Team Penske, Stewart-Haas Racing and Richard Childress Racing prior to joining Roush. He has 18 wins and many top fives and 10s with his last victory coming at ISM Raceway in 2017. Newman’s experience can help Buescher further develop into a potential Cup championship contender and is what Buescher needs to reach the next level.
It certainly looks like a good move for the organization all around and a great one for Buescher. – Joy Tomlinson
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