With Champion’s Week in Las Vegas complete, the book has been closed on the 2018 season. Meaning, it’s time for Martin Truex Jr. to shift from Furniture Row to Joe Gibbs Racing.
“It’s an end of an era, for sure, but we had a hell of a good run,” Truex said. “And came close to being a storybook ending.”
The work begins next week for Cole Pearn. Truex’s longtime crew chief is relocating from Colorado and will soon be in the JGR shop prepping for ’19 with the No. 19 team. Truex says Blake Harris, who had been his car chief, will also remain with him, as will one of his engineers, in the otherwise new operation.
“It’s going to be a different cast of characters now, so it’s all going to be new and we’re going to have to figure it,” said Truex. “For me, I’m confident we’ll figure it out because of the people around us. Especially with Cole leading the charge. I know he can get the best out of everybody and that was really the key to our success — him figuring out how to get the most out of everybody, putting the right people in the right places.
“It’s going to be hard to duplicate the cast of characters we had, there’s no question, but if anyone can do it, it’s him. I’m excited about that and knowing we’re in a place where we feel comfortable and have confidence in the people there and what they can do. We’ll just see what we can make happen.”
Truex spoke positively about the change, noting that the already existing relationship between FRR and Gibbs not only helped him get this opportunity, but ensured there won’t be a lot that is new to him. Truex is already familiar with the Gibbs organization, people, cars and equipment. Plus, Truex said over the last few years Furniture Row was on the same page with what Gibbs did since the two groups were in an alliance.
Of course, Truex beat the house team for the 2017 title. In his five years at Furniture Row, Truex and company gradually improved their performance and ended with 17 wins. For as good as things were over the last few years, Truex doesn’t believe that’s over.
“It’s not going to be a tick lower (with JGR) because we won’t stand for that,” Truex said. “That’s not why we’re here. Cole and I, and the team he assembles, we’ve got a few guys from Furniture Row coming with us, we’re going to have the same attitude. We get paid to win, that’s our goal — figure out how to win. You ask anybody in here, anybody in the garage area, whether they finished 10th this year or 20th, they feel like they’re going to be better next year. You have to be better in this sport to keep up.
“We’re already starting. Cole’s moving. He’ll be in North Carolina next week getting to work, and I’ll be pestering him about what we’re going getting ready for Daytona.”
In that respect at least, Truex said there will be nothing new about 2019.
“It’s been exciting; the last five years have been great, especially last four,” said Truex. “For Cole and I, we’re focused on what we’ve got to do to be championship contenders year in and year out, and that focus doesn’t change just because we’re switching teams.”