Having signed a multi-year deal to drive for Furniture Row Racing in 2014, Martin Truex Jr. feels “blessed.”
Following a chain of events involving Truex’s current team, Michael Waltrip Racing, that began with teammate Clint Bowyer’s spin at the Sept. 7 Richmond race and continued through NAPA’s decision to pull sponsorship at season’s end, Truex wasn’t sure where he would end up.
Now, he realizes just how fortunate he is to align with a potentially Chase-contending team such as Furniture Row Racing.
“This is a big deal for me,” said Truex, who signed his deal Thursday. “I’m very excited about the opportunity to drive the Furniture Row No. 78 for Joe (Garone, general manager) and Barney (Visser, team owner). I’ve really been impressed with their organization. Obviously, I think everybody here has been impressed with what they have accomplished this year being a single-car team based out of Denver.
“I think that anybody in this garage area will tell you it’s been really amazing to watch them progress. Everybody has been impressed with their competition program, the way their cars have ran this year, the speed that they have had. I’m looking forward obviously to being a part of that equation.”
The 33-year-old Mayetta, N.J., native made his limited Cup debut in 2004, the same year he won his first of two Nationwide Series titles. Truex, whose first full Cup season was 2006 with now-defunct Dale Earnhardt Inc., has two career wins in 294 starts. He earned his two Chase berths with DEI and more recently with MWR, where he has spent the past four seasons.
But after the drama in the final race before the Chase, where Bowyer spun – changing the outcome of the event and resulting in a points penalty that knocked the No. 56 Toyota out of the top 12 in the standings – Truex realized it was time to move on.
“This is only the second time I’ve changed teams,” he said. “It’s very difficult. I’ve had a great four years at Michael Waltrip Racing. I really enjoyed my time there. I wouldn’t change anything that ever happened there. I mean, it was great. Just after all the stuff went down, I just felt like it was time for change. I think this will be a good one.
“Just the opportunity to do something to try to be better, I think, was the deciding factor. The opportunity to go to a winning race car, start fresh and hopefully do the thing I want to do. I just got excited about the opportunity.”
Truex replaces Kurt Busch, who is moving on to Stewart-Haas Racing next season. During Busch’s short tenure, Furniture Row Racing qualified for NASCAR’s playoffs for the first time in the organization’s seven full seasons on the Cup tour. Though Busch has yet to win this season, the team has been as high as fifth in points during the Chase and has shattered every existing record for the No. 78 Chevy.
And Garone believes Truex can pick up where Busch left off.
“Martin can win races,” Garone said. “He is a Chase-level driver. He is going to fit into the program. It’s not just Martin, it is Martin and the family, the Truex family. It’s a fit, it really is. We are excited about all the opportunities that come along with Martin being on board, from how he represents our sponsors to what he can get done behind the wheel.
“We are going to have some work ahead of us. We are going to work really hard. Todd (Berrier, crew chief) and the guys, they are excited about moving forward and getting him the cars he needs to be able to win. That is what we are looking forward to.”
Although FRR is a single-car operation, Truex is encouraged by the team’s technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing. The addition of Ryan Newman – one of Truex’s best friends on the tour – to RCR is another benefit.
If FRR has had one weakness this season, however, it’s been the inconsistency of its pit crew. Despite changes throughout the year, the results have been mediocre at best. Garone hopes to add Truex’s existing MWR pit crew to the No. 78 team’s roster for next season as MWR pares down to two full-time teams. If that happens, the team will continue to train at MWR.
On Friday, MWR issued a statement regarding Truex: “We are very happy to see him in a competitive ride next year and appreciate the professionalism everyone showed throughout this entire process.”
Although Truex has not yet visited the FRR shop in Denver, he’s spent time acclimating with Berrier and team engineer Cole Pearn on the weekends. Though the organization might not be large in size – FRR has just 60 employees on its roster – the company’s ability to be self-funded and concentrate solely on racing is a trait Truex finds appealing.
“In talking to Cole and Todd and to Barney and Joe, and just everybody, their focus is on racecars,” Truex said. “Barney says if it makes the car go faster, we get it. Those types of thing as a racecar driver that you look for. As much as it sounds crazy, fan experiences and shop tours and all those kinds of things don’t make cars faster. These guys are 100 percent focused on making race cars faster. Whether it is Todd and Cole at the racetrack or at the shop building stuff – or Barney’s commitment to the team – it is all about racing cars. As a driver, it is refreshing.
“In this day and age, it is something you don’t see a lot of. A lot of this sport is about the fans, the experience and putting on a show. These guys are in Denver, and they build racecars – fast racecars – and I can’t wait to drive them."