Furniture Row to close down team at season's end

Image by Barry Cantrell/NKP/LAT

Furniture Row to close down team at season's end

NASCAR

Furniture Row to close down team at season's end

Furniture Row Racing says it has been left “with no reasonable option” but to close its doors at the end of the season.

The defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship organization based out of Denver, Colorado, had been sponsor hunting since 5-hour ENERGY announced earlier this summer that it would not be returning next season. 5-hour ENERGY is one of the co-primary sponsors on the No. 78 Toyota for driver Martin Truex Jr., appearing on the car in 14 races.

“This is not good for anybody,” said team owner Barney Visser. “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 and FRR celebrate last year’s title. (Image by Nigel Kinrade/LAT)

FRR dominated the Cup Series a year ago with Truex. En route to their first championship, Truex won eight races, including the season finale for the title, captured a series-high 19 stage wins and led over 2,000 laps. Truex joined the team in 2014.

For the first time in its history, FRR ran two cars last season with rookie Erik Jones. 5-hour ENERGY served as Jones’s primary sponsor before moving to Truex’s car this year as Jones left to go in-house at Joe Gibbs Racing, the alliance partner of FRR. Since debuting in the Cup Series in 2005, FRR has been primarily a single-car operation.

“While I am saddened by today’s announcement, I totally understand the decision,” said Truex, who has won 17 of the company’s 18 races. “Barney Visser, Joe Garone 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.”

Kenny Wallace finished 34th in the team’s first race at Dover in 2005. The team began competing full-time in the series in 2011 with Regan Smith and scored an improbable victory in the Southern 500.

In 2013, Kurt Busch drove the car into the playoffs for the first time. Busch finished 10th in points, which was a career-best for the organization until Truex took over. Truex finished fourth in 2015 after scoring the company’s second career win and making the final four.

It was not until this year that the organization had a season’s worth of sponsorship paid for by someone other than Visser. The business owner had been funding the car out of pocket with his home furnishings and bedding company.

Jones and Truex in 2017. (Image by Matthew Thacker/LAT)

5-hour ENERGY shares the car this season with Bass Pro Shops and Auto-Owners Insurance.

“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,” Visser noted. “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.

“I had a wake-up call last year (heart attack) and while I feel great I need to make the best decisions that will have an impact on myself and my family. My wife Carolyn and the entire Visser family have been supportive of our racing journey and it’s been one incredible ride for all of us.

“There are so many people I want to thank because without them winning a championship and being competitive would never have happened: Joe Gibbs Racing for our technical alliance, Toyota and TRD (Toyota Racing Development), Bass Pro Shops, 5-hour ENERGY, Auto-Owners Insurance, Furniture Row and Denver Mattress.

“A heartfelt thank you to Joe Garone, Martin Truex Jr., Cole Pearn and all of our team members for their talent, dedication and sacrifices they made along the way. To the Furniture Row and Denver Mattress employees I want to express a special thank you for always having my back from the early years of our race team to our championship run.

“I also want to thank the fans, the Denver community, NASCAR, International Speedway Corporation (ISC), Speedway Motorsports Inc. (SMI) and independent track owners for providing and maintaining the venues that we compete at. A special tip of the hat to the media and to NASCAR’s broadcast partners – FOX, NBC, Motor Racing Network (MRN), Performance Racing Network (PRN) and SiriusXM Radio. We’ve always been treated fairly by members of the media and I appreciate their hard work in one of the most demanding schedules in major league sports.”

Truex will again compete for the championship, having qualified for the playoffs with wins earlier this year at Fontana, Pocono, Sonoma and Kentucky. He sits third in points going into the regular season finale this weekend at Indianapolis.

There has been no announcement regarding the future of Truex or his crew chief, Cole Pearn.

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