Major news out of the NASCAR world this afternoon as Team Owner Barney Visser announced that defending Cup Series Championship team Furniture Row Racing will cease operation at the conclusion of the 2018 season.
“This is not good for anybody”, Visser said in the announcement. “The numbers just don’t add up. I would have to borrow money to continue as a competitive team and I’m not going to do that. This was obviously a painful decision to arrive at knowing how it will affect a number of quality and talented people.”
For starters, look at defending champion Martin Truex Jr. After years of riding around with lesser quality teams for years, Truex finally found a team and a car where he can flourish when he joined FRR in 2014. After making a trip the Championship Four in 2015, Truex followed up winning four races in ’16 before an engine failure ended his championship hopes in the playoffs. Last season, it all came together for MTJ where he won the regular season championship collecting playoff points and win on their way to victory in Homestead as the 2017 champion winning a total of 8 races. Truex has 4 more wins so far this season and is one of the guys that will compete for the title again this year.
Truex addressed the team announcement in a statement today as well, “While I am saddened by today’s announcement, I totally understand the decision. Barney Visser, Joe Garrone and the entire Furniture Row Racing team took me in while my career was in a bad place, and together we reached the pinnacle of the sport. I will forever be grateful to each and every one of them, and also Furniture Row, Denver Mattress, and the Visser Family. But make no mistake this is not the immediate end. We still have unfinished business to attend to and that’s to give everything we have to successfully defend our Monster Energy Cup Series Championship. Right now that is foremost on my mind as it is with our entire team,” Truex finished with.
Martin Truex Jr. & Crew Chief Cole Pearn will not remain without a contract for 2019 for very long. This is a dynamic combination fresh off a championship that many in the sport would line up to sign. It’s about to opportunity and the fit and I wouldn’t be surprised if the two, as well as many of the FRR team chose a new landing spot together.
Back to Visser, part of his rationale was to allow team members to get out in front in seeking employment for next season. Many could find employment not too far from where they’ve been with the four-car Joe Gibbs Racing stable that Furniture Row has been aligned with. Would it really shock you if Coach Gibbs pushed out Daniel Suarez & Scott Graves in the No. 19 team in favor of Martin Truex Jr. & Cole Pearn? I mean this team was just laps away from a potential championship in 2016 with Carl Edwards before he shockingly announced his retirement at the seasons end. In two years, Suarez has improved but failed to win his first race and the No. 19 team is on the cusp of missing the playoffs yet again. Truex would transition seamlessly to JGR running in the same high-quality equipment and still driving a Toyota for a top-level team. It makes a lot of sense on a lot of levels.
Back to the announcement today, it speaks to the health of the sport that one sponsor leaving can have such a ripple effect on a championship winning team. 5-hour energy leaving the sport and FRR, altered the lives of many and the team just didn’t have the necessary funding to continue to compete at the highest level in the alliance with JGR.
“I’ve always felt that we could be a competitive team and run for a championship even when it seemed like a pipe dream to many racing insiders. But to be successful as a business you need to assemble the right people and make a strong commitment to succeed. We achieved what we set out to do andwe feel like we climbed Mount Everest. To continue with anything less than a competitive team would not be acceptable. It’s been an incredible ride,” Visser concluded.
It’s always a sad day when a team closes up shop. Especially in this case for a team that altered the sport operating out of Denver, Colorado and winning a championship. A team full of people who uprooted their lives with the commitment to win. A driver who resurrected his career, a crew chief who did the most with his first opportunity to lead and an owner who had the chance to fund his own racing team and achieve immortal greatness with stock car racing’s highest honor, a Cup Series Title. 11 races left for Furniture Row Racing before they cease operation and a rare opportunity to go out on top. They will give it all they can for the team that gave them this opportunity before moving on to their next endeavor.
UPDATE: Multiple reports including FOX have now confirmed what I speculated above yesterday that Truex & Pearn will join JGR and the No. 19 team next season. TRD keeps a championship driver and Daniel Suarez is out in the four-team stable. Coach Gibbs now has two former champions in Kyle Busch & Martin Truex Jr., short-track ace Denny Hamlin who has won 31 career races and second-year driver Erik Jones from Michigan who has showed all of the promise and potential and scored his first career win this summer at Daytona. That’s a serious four-car team for The Coach.