Roush executive: Time with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had ‘run its course’

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Steve Newmark, the president of Roush Fenway Racing said the news that Chris Buescher will replace Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the No. 17 in 2020 resulted in a “day of mixed emotions” for the team, later adding that its nearly decade-long relationship with Stenhouse had “kind of run its course.”

Newmark provided some details of the timeframe of Stenhouse’s eventual departure and Buescher’s return to the organization Wednesday night in a 30-minute interview with host Claire B. Lang on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Jack’s Garage.”

Some of the highlights of the interview:

–Newmark said the team’s direction (which was “difficult on a lot of fronts”) on choosing Buescher was finalized Tuesday night and led to a “flurry” of activity Wednesday, which began with the team informing Stenhouse of its decision. The team released the news publicly at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

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–After a Wednesday night tweet by Buescher alluded to Roush exercising “an option” to return to the team where he raced before four years with Front Row Motorsports and JTG Daugherty, Newmark clarified that Roush retained “some residual rights that were triggered in certain instances.”

Newmark said the team was focused over the summer on improving Stenhouse’s results to make the playoffs, not in finding a replacement. But Newmark said “interesting circumstances” came up in recent weeks that led them to pursue Buescher.

“I think even we weren’t aware that those instances were going to arise here,” Newmark said. “But because of how things unfolded at JTG, it ended up we got a call recently from Chris and his representative saying, ‘Hey, as a heads up, these conditions happened, and we’re giving you notice that some of the rights that you had under this residual option are available.’

“At that point, we’ve always been interested in Chris and always continued that relationship. There have been discussions at the board level, and Jack really has put his heart and soul into trying to figure out what the best path for this organization is. And we spent some time the last week exploring different options and how to put this together and the implications.”

–Newmark told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that the decision to go with Buescher “wasn’t predicated on any one factor,” but he cited Ryan Newman‘s success in qualifying the No. 6 car for the playoffs in his first year with Roush as among the factors.

“Ryan has 11 top 10s, and that whole team has put together start-to-finish races, and he’s averaging finishes of about 13.5,” which is his best average since putting up that same number in 2015.

Newmark also cited Buescher’s performance over the summer, with 16 consecutive starts where Buescher finished inside the top 20.

“So his racing style is conducive to how we’re constructed on our end,” Newmark told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “When Chris was with us, he was one of the drivers that Ford relied on for simulators, just because of the quality of his feedback and the input he provided.

“I think all of those factors just went into saying ‘This is the right time to give Chris a chance and to see if we can put a team around Chris and have him in a position where he can excel similar to what Ryan Newman did this year.'”

The hiring of Buescher will end a seven-year run for Stenhouse in the No. 17 where he has two wins and failed to make the playoffs the last two seasons.

“At the end of the day, we, as in Roush Fenway, didn’t do our jobs and didn’t fulfill our obligations to extract the most out of the 17 program,” Newmark told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “I think there was a lot of potential there with Ricky as a talented driver and overall, and we just weren’t able to put everything together to make it as successful as quite frankly (owner) Jack Roush expects it to be, which is competing for wins and champions. That’s on our shoulders and that’s obviously a tough decision to make. We determined it just kind of (had) run its course and it was probably time to make a change.

“On the flip side, there’s obviously quite a bit of excitement about bringing Chris back into the fold. It really is a homecoming, of course. He signed with us when he was 16 years old, 10 years ago, and had our last championship (Xfinity in 2015) and I think he’s always been someone we view as your quintessential Roush Fenway driver in how he approaches racing and everything he does. I think there’s a lot of excitement to have him back in the fold because we think he can excel with the organization going forward.”