17. Chris Buescher

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  • Chris Buescher
    Racecar driver

Chris Buescher seemed a little conflicted when Roush-Fenway Racing exercised their option on him at the end of 2019. His JTG-Daugherty Racing team was hitting their stride after finishing 25th and 24th in the two previous seasons and he was on his way to even better results. Buescher earned four top-10s that season and wanted to see where the team could go.

By his standard, the first year with Roush in 2020 was a success. He scored two top-fives, which matched a career-best earned twice, in 2016 and 2018. He had eight top-10s, which was twice what he scored in 2017. By Jack Roush's standards, it was a disappointment, but this organization had fallen on hard times recently and frankly it was the best they could do.

While teammate Ryan Newman performed well by sheer willpower, the years were piling up on the veteran and his results did not rise to the effort. Buescher was now the lead driver, but he actually finished one position behind his 2020 performance in 21st. Last season was not much better with only one top-five and eight top-10s. His mid-pack performances improved out and he finished 19th in the standings, which was his best effort since he qualified for the 2016 playoffs on the strength of a weather-aided win at Pocono Raceway.

Buescher and the rest of the organization must believe that 2022 will be the first step toward regaining supremacy with a marquee driver, only a little past his prime, will join them. If nothing else, the announcement that Brad Keselowski took an ownership role in the renamed RFK Racing generated a lot of excitement among partners.

Will it be enough to raise the water level and lift both ships? Only time will tell.

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Handicapping is speculative by nature and there is so much that can happen in each season. Momentum can be gained or lost in the blink of an eye and intangibles like Keselowski joining the organization can have a big impact.

Normally we don't put a lot of stock in carburetor-restricted superspeedway racing for how it impacts future predictions, but this may be an exception. Buescher has finished sixth or better in five races since joining Roush. Three of these came at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. Neither track ranks among his top three during his career, but that trend could change if he stays with the organization long enough because RFK Racing is great on the course type.

Buescher's other two top-six finishes with Roush came on road courses; he finished third on the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course last fall and was fifth on the Daytona infield course in 2020.

The true measure of success will be in how they respond on similarly-configured, 1.5-mile tracks, however, and a glimmer of hope exists there as well. Five of Buescher's 16 Roush top-10s came at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Charlotte, Kansas Speedway, and Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Toss in three top-10s on the rough-surfaced tracks of Darlington Raceway and Bristol Motor Speedway, and there are ample places to watch Buescher in 2022. If the traders at PointsBet Sportsbook lag on him whatsoever and give attractive odds for a top-five early in the season, it may very well be worth spending some of your mad money in the off chance that the Roush organization will have a breakout season.

Three Best Tracks *
Charlotte road (14.5 in 4 attempts)
Darlington (17.6 in 9)
Las Vegas (17.7 in 10)

Three Worst Tracks *
Richmond (26.3 in 11)
New Hampshire (24.3 in 8)
Phoenix (23.8 in 12)

2021 Stats
Victories: None, (Best finish: third COTA)
Top-fives: 1 (.028)
Top-10s: 8 (.222)
Top-15s: 16 (.444)
Top-20s: 25 (.694)

2021 Finishes at or above rank = 20 (55.6%)

* Active tracks with three or more starts

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