NASCAR champion team to close down

Martin Truex Jnr on his way to victory in the Furniture Row Racing Toyota at Sonoma in June

Furniture Row Racing (FRR), which won the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series with Martin Truex Jnr, will close down at the end of the season due to financial difficulties.

The announcement is not unexpected given that the Barney Visser-owned outfit was on the hunt for sponsorship after news in July that 5-hour Energy, one of its three primary backers, would not be with the team next year.

FRR had been one of NASCAR’s battlers for several years since it commenced operations in 2005, but pulled off a top 10 series finish with Kurt Busch in 2013 and won the title last year when Truex Jnr bagged eight race wins.

Ex-Kelly Racing engineer Peter Craik shared in that 2017 triumph and is still onboard at FRR.

The team raced with Chevrolets until switching to Toyota and forming a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2016.

While it slimmed back to one car this year, a model which it has run for most of its existence, 2018 is also the first time FRR has been fully funded by external sponsors rather than being propped up by Furniture Row/Visser.

“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,” said Visser.

“But to be successful in any business you need to assemble the right people and make a strong commitment to succeed. We achieved what we set out to do and feel like we climbed Mount Everest. To continue with anything less than a competitive team would not be acceptable.

“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.

“We’ve been aggressively seeking sponsorship to replace 5-hour Energy and to offset the rising costs of continuing a team alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing but haven’t had any success.

“I feel that it’s only proper to make the decision at this time to allow all team members to start seeking employment for next year. I strongly believe that all of our people have enhanced their careers by working at Furniture Row Racing.”

Truex Jnr is into his fifth year with FRR, during which time he has achieved 17 of his 18 Cup Series race wins to date, and is currently third in the standings with four race wins in 2018.

The 38-year-old paid tribute to the team which has provided the platform for that success.

“While I am saddened by today’s announcement, I totally understand the decision,” said Truex Jnr.

“Barney Visser, Joe Garone (team president) 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 to 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 NASCAR Cup Series championship. Right now that is foremost on my mind as it is with the entire team.”

NASCAR also issued a statement commending Visser and the team for its time in the series.

“NASCAR wishes the very best to Barney Visser and his family,” read the statement.

“Barney has been a successful owner and an amazing champion, and his presence will certainly be missed.

“We look forward to seeing Martin Truex Jr., Cole Pearn (crew chief) and the entire No. 78 team finish the 2018 season strong and competing for another championship.

“NASCAR will continue to work on growing the sport and working with the race teams on competitive and operational excellence. Much of those efforts have already been put in place, and will continue to be a focus.”

There is no word yet on the destination of Truex Jnr or Pearn in 2019, although Joe Gibbs Racing would be a logical move.

The NASCAR Cup Series’ regular season concludes this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (September 7-9 local time).

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