Smith’s team has advantage for two races

As most single-car Sprint Cup teams and other insufficiently funded operations scrambled to regroup following a rain-shortened work week compounded by a 2,600-mile trek from Daytona Beach, Fla., back to Charlotte and out to Phoenix, Furniture Row Racing had the home-track advantage.

Certainly, that’s not usually the case. The Denver-based race team – and no, not Denver, NC, on the west side of Lake Norman – could be considered logistically challenged compared to organizations centered throughout metro-Charlotte.

Since only one-fourth of the NASCAR schedule is west of the Mississippi River, it’s a long haul for Furniture Row Racing to most of the 38 events.

But with the Sprint Cup tour rolling into Phoenix International Raceway this weekend, Furniture Row’s truckers have a mere 830-mile ride. Their North Carolina-based competitors will log more than 2,100 miles to the Land of the Sun. And with next weekend’s events at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, 300 miles to the north, the pressure to get ahead of the game mounts.

“It’s real similar to when the Charlotte-based teams get to race at say Richmond and some of the tracks around there,” said FRR general manager Joe Garone. “When it’s good for them, it’s bad for us. When it’s bad for them it’s a lot better for us. Obviously, leaving from Daytona late, we’ll just run by Denver and dump the cars off and put our Phoenix cars in and continue to the racetrack.

“For Las Vegas, it’s a 13-hour drive from Denver, so we’ll just go back to our shop have two days there and then head to Vegas. The race team is ready at the shop. The race cars are ready. It’s just a matter of reloading the truck and taking off the equipment that was specific to superspeedways then reloading it with our intermediate and short-track stuff. It’s just a matter of hours and we’ll be ready to go again.”

Barney Visser, team owner of Furniture Row Racing, calls the Mile High City home. Visser started the team on a part-time basis in 2005. He expanded in 2008, down-sized the following year, then went full-time with Regan Smith behind the wheel in 2010. Last year, Smith rewarded Visser with his first Sprint Cup win in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

With Furniture Row’s technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing, FRR still has state-of-the-art data at their fingertips. There engines come from Earnhardt Childress Racing as well. The company keeps a small shop near Lexington, NC, where equipment can be swapped out if necessary.

“It’s really just a small garage that we use as a waystation,” Garone said. “The tractor trailer goes there, loads the parts and unloads anything else we might be sending back. We have a van that we drive around during the week. But we don’t have a real shop. It’s convenient because it’s close to RCR.”

For Visser, there was never any question of basing FRR’s operation anywhere other than Denver. Garone, also a Denver native, lived in North Carolina while he was a crew chief and during a stint with NASCAR at its Research and Development Center prior to moving back home. And the Denver bug caught on.

Smith, 28,  sold his North Carolina home last year and moved to Colorado as well. Smith, who starts his fourth season with the team this year, fell in love with the lifestyle.

“He finally moved full time there,” Garone said. “He’s been back and forth since he started with us. He used to come out to go snow-skiing anyway, so I think it was a great excuse for him to find a place and move there. I know he and his wife Megan love it there.”

Garone feels he’s in great shape for the start of the 2012 season. His cars for the next two races are complete and he has just a few touches to put on for the three races after that. Unlike some of his fellow managers, Garone will have quality time with his family next week before Las Vegas.

And after spending what seems like a month in Daytona, Garone will welcome the time at home.