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Chris Buescher
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Statistically Speaking

Head-to-head: Buescher vs Stenhouse

by Dan Beaver
Updated On: January 27, 2020, 4:27 pm ET

On paper, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Chris Buescher are fairly well matched. In 2020, fantasy players will get an opportunity to see if Roush Fenway Racing has the potential to raise their performance and break that virtual tie.

When Roush announced they would execute an option on Buescher’s contract and put him in the No. 17, it caught everyone by surprise – including the driver they fired and the one they hired. Buescher believed he was working on an extension with JTG-Daugherty Racing and was in the midst of arguably his best season yet.

Stenhouse knew he was under scrutiny, but suspected all would be okay despite the fact that he was in the middle of his worst season in four years. Buescher’s open ride created an opportunity for him and he sidled into the No. 37.

Both teams were in similar circumstances. The Roush organization is rebuilding while JTG saw the brightest light on their horizon in quite some time. Now it remains to be seen if the drivers can continue to keep momentum with their new programs as Buescher and Stenhouse swap places and race head-to-head.


Roush is a shadow of their formers selves. At the beginning of 2019 they replaced Trevor Bayne with Ryan Newman and started to see the type of performance they expected from their flagship team. Newman did not win, but he recorded some promising runs and helped the team make the box score notes on several occasions.

Buescher had four top-10s last year compared to Stenhouse’s three, but it was not so much the number that made the difference as to where and when he scored them. All four top-10s came on high profile similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks and they were earned in the first 19 weeks of the season while the decision was being made as to who would race the No. 17 in 2020.

Suddenly Buescher was being considered one of the up and coming drivers.

But even a cursory look at the numbers reveals there is not much difference between the performances of the two drivers. In four fulltime seasons Buescher has accrued an average finish of 21.3; Stenhouse’s average is 20.9 in seven seasons.

Stenhouse would seem to have the advantage in terms of career top-10s with 4.9 per season while Buescher has never earned more than four.

 

Chris Buescher

 

Wins

Top-fives

Top-10s

Points’ Standings

2015

0

0

0

NM (6 starts)

2016

1

2

2

16

2017

0

0

4

25

2018

0

2

2

24

2019

0

0

4

20

Total

1

4

12

21.3 (avg.)

Three-best tracks

Darlington

14.8 in 4 starts

 

 

 

Indy

15.8 in 4 starts

 

 

 

Charlotte Roval

17.5 in 2 starts

 

 

 

 

But fantasy owners and the executives at Roush were paying attention to another number. Buescher’s four seasons makes him more of an unknown entity. It also suggests that he has a bigger upside to that of Stenhouse.

Stenhouse’s seemingly enhanced career performance came in what should have been consistently stronger equipment. Roush certainly had the bigger name and one supposes greater resources during what should have been that driver’s golden years while Buescher was with a more modest team.

Roush had ample opportunity to evaluate Buescher since JTG-Daugherty Racing is an affiliate.

Meanwhile Stenhouse struggled at a critical juncture. RFR had been on the decline for several years before Newman seemingly started to reverse that trend in 2019. The spotlight had been trained on Bayne for much of that time, but with the improvement in the 6, the organization started to come to the realization that the equipment might not be at fault.

 

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

 

Wins

Top-fives

Top-10s

Points’ Standings

2011

0

0

0

NM (1 start)

2012

0

0

0

NM (4 starts)

2013

0

1

3

19

2014

0

1

5

27

2015

0

1

3

25

2016

0

4

6

21

2017

2

4

9

13

2018

0

3

5

18

2019

0

1

3

23

Total

2

15

34

20.9 (avg.)

Three-best tracks

Talladega

13.9 in 14 starts

 

 

 

Bristol

14.4 in 14 starts

 

 

 

Chicagoland

17.3 in 7 starts

 

 

 

 

It was time for the No. 17 to follow and that did not happen. Stenhouse had his worst performance in four seasons and it came in most categories. His top-fives, -10s, average race finish and points’ position all earned low marks.

The one category in which Stenhouse improved was his average start. At 15.1 it was his best ever. That only made matters worse.

It begged the question of why Stenhouse could not keep his Ford in the running in race trim. For fantasy players, it was a double whammy since his average finish was worsened by negative place-differential points of 5.4 – giving him an effective average of 25.8.

The hope for both RFR and JTG is that change will be good for all involved – and that is not an unreasonable assumption. Very often simply making a change like this elevates both programs.

But it is the program that players should judge and not the drivers. Buescher will probably come out on top simply because Roush is the more powerful team.

Stenhouse is a strong enough driver to continue to help JTG improve – IF he is able to communicate effectively. So far in seven seasons, that would seem to be the weak link in his armor.

Previous Head-to-head matchups:
Rick Jones vs. Christopher Bell
Chase Elliott vs. Ryan Blaney
Kyle vs. Kurt Busch
Joe Gibbs vs. Team Penske

Dan Beaver

Dan Beaver has been covering fantasy NASCAR for more than 20 years with a little help from his >650,000 record database. He can be found on Twitter @FantasyRace.