CONCORD, N.C. — When Roush Fenway Racing announced Chris Buescher would be returning to the organization in 2020, team co-owner Jack Roush felt like it was an opportunity to correct a mistake.
Buescher had been a part of Roush Fenway Racing through the 2015 season, winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship (2015) and ARCA Menards Series championship (2012) along the way.
However, after the 2015 season Roush was struggling to find a place for Buescher in his NASCAR program. As a result, Buescher departed Roush Fenway Racing to join Front Row Motorsports in 2016 before moving on to JTG Daugherty Racing in 2017.
Looking back on that decision, Roush admits he’d do things differently should he be given the chance to do it over.
“It’s not often in life that you have the chance to redo a mistake,” Roush said Friday afternoon at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “In 2015 when he won the Xfinity championship, he completed a lot of laps, led a lot of laps, he was a good points racer as well as a good closer.
“When we were going into 2016 and what we had in front of us in terms of challenges, I decided at that time I would dilute my existing programs more than I should by starting a program for Chris. I wish I’d done that differently.”
Luckily for Roush, the opportunity to bring Buescher back into the fold unexpectedly presented itself during the last seven days.
Buescher was in the midst of contract negotiations with JTG Daugherty Racing, but a set of circumstances that Roush Fenway Racing President Steve Newmark declined to discuss in depth opened the door for the team to sign the 26-year-old Texan to replace Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the No. 17 Ford Mustang.
“It did come together pretty quickly, this wasn’t something we’d been planning for quite some time,” Newmark explained. “We were alerted to something from Chris and his representatives about a residual option that Roush Fenway had retained from many years back. Through some circumstances that arose between JTG and Chris, that option came about.
“The way the situation evolved was he had his contract with JTG. That was his contract. We didn’t have a right of first refusal, it was only if certain circumstances came out where he was no longer under that arrangement with JTG that he essentially had to notify us and let us know his status.”
For Buescher, the chance to rejoin Roush Fenway Racing to take the wheel of the No. 17 was an opportunity to return home in a manner of speaking.
“For me it’s going to be an opportunity to have a homecoming in a lot of senses,” said Buescher, who has one Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory on his résumé. “It’s a place I spent a really long time. I have a ton of friends that are still at Roush Fenway Racing and in the entire Ford camp. I would say through the craziness that has come up the last couple of days, it’s been incredible to hear from so many people that have so many well wishes and congratulations.”
Roush compared Buescher to two other drivers who have carried the No. 17 — Darrell Waltrip and Matt Kenseth, saying that he’s looking forward to the team building its program around Buescher beginning next year.
“He certainly exemplifies and compliments the No. 17 car number that Darrell Waltrip ran initially, and Matt Kenseth more recently had used for stock cars,” Roush said. “Not that he’s in Darrell Waltrip’s fold, but Matt Kenseth raced the way Chris likes to race. I think it’ll work out very well with Ryan Newman’s attitude toward racing with what he does with his car and the way he approaches the sport in general.
“We’re real excited to build the program around him.”