Ricky Stenhouse Jr. out at Roush next year; Chris Buescher in No. 17

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Roush Fenway Racing announced Wednesday afternoon that this season will be the last in the No. 17 Ford for Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who will be replaced by Chris Buescher.

Stenhouse, in his seventh season driving the No. 17, has failed to make the playoffs the past two seasons with the team. Stenhouse enters Sunday’s race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC) 23rd in the points. He finished 18th in the points last year. He won two races in 2016 to qualify for the playoffs and finished a career-high 13th in the points. He is winless in 83 races.

Buescher returns to Roush, where he won the 2015 Xfinity championship but left to drive for Front Row Motorsports and JTG Daugherty Racing the past three seasons. Buescher enters this weekend 20th in points. He finished a career-high 16th in points in 2016 for Front Row Motorsports, earning a playoff spot with his Pocono win. That remains his lone Cup victory. He’s winless in 115 races. Buescher is one of three drivers to make the playoffs in their rookie season, joining Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin.

Stenhouse had a contract with the team through 2021, but contracts often have performance-related clauses and other outs that can permit drivers and teams to vacate the remaining terms of a deal.

JTG Daugherty Racing co-owner Tad Geschickter issued the following statement.

“We were in the final strokes of the contract when learning that Chris has gone in a different direction. 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 for the 2020 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.”

With today’s news, Stenhouse will not appear on NASCAR America’s MotorMouths at 5 p.m. ET today as previously scheduled.

Here’s the release from the team:

Roush Fenway Racing has announced that Chris Buescher will make his return to the team, taking the wheel of its No. 17 NASCAR Cup Series Ford in 2020. The team will part ways with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. at the conclusion of the 2019 season.

“We can’t say enough about Ricky and his contributions to Roush Fenway Racing,” said team co-owner and NASCAR Hall of Famer 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, a product of Roush Fenway’s development driver program, returns to the team that he led to a NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS) title in 2015.

“We are certainly excited to have Chris back in the fold at Roush Fenway Racing,” 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.”

Buescher first joined Roush Fenway as a development driver in 2009, winning the 2012 ARCA Series championship in a partnership with Roulo Brothers Racing, before making his NXS debut for Roush Fenway in relief of Trevor Bayne in 2011. He moved to full time in the NXS in 2014, and in 2015 brought home Jack Roush’s eighth NASCAR Championship; dominating the series while leading the NXS standings for 24 consecutive weeks.

Stenhouse has piloted the No. 17 car for the past seven seasons after taking over for Matt Kenseth in 2013.

Buescher drove the No. 34 Ford during his Cup rookie season in 2016, racing his way into the playoffs via a victory at Pocono. He has served as the driver of the No. 37 Cup entry for the past three seasons and is currently 20th in the NASCAR Cup point standings.