CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Roush Fenway Racing made a surprise driver change Wednesday, saying Chris Buescher will replace veteran Ricky Stenhouse Jr. next season.
Stenhouse has driven the No. 17 Ford for Roush the past seven seasons and Roush held options on his contract for 2020 and 2021. But the team informed him it is parting ways with the two-time Xfinity Series champion.
Stenhouse has two Cup victories for Roush, but is winless this season, didn't make the playoffs and is 23rd in the overall standings. He won both his Xfinity titles driving for Roush before he was promoted to replace Matt Kenseth in 2013.
"We can't say enough about Ricky and his contributions to Roush Fenway Racing," said team co-owner 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."
Buescher would not reveal his 2020 plans when asked at Las Vegas two weeks ago about his future with JTG Daugherty Racing. Buescher drove the No. 34 Ford during his Cup rookie season in 2016 and won at Pocono to make the playoffs. He's been driving the No. 37 Chevrolet the past three seasons and is currently 20th in the Cup standings.
A delay in negotiations with JTG allowed Roush in the last week to pursue Buescher, who came from Roush's development system.
Buescher's move blindsided JTG Daugherty.
"We were in the final strokes of the contract when learning that Chris has gone in a different direction," said team owner Tad Geschickter. "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."
Among the candidates will be Stenhouse and Daniel Hemric, who learned last week he is out after one rookie season with Richard Childress Racing. Daniel Suarez could be out of a job if Stewart-Haas Racing promotes Cole Custer from the Xfinity Series, and the usual group of young drivers angling for better rides will also be on the market.
Buescher, meanwhile, is returning to the organization that gave him his start and where he won the 2015 Xfinity Series title with the organization.
"We are certainly excited to have Chris back in the fold," 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."