The team that won the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series championship won’t exist in 2019.
Furniture Row Racing said Tuesday that it would be shutting down at the end of the season. The move means Martin Truex Jr. will need to find a new team for the 2019 season.
“This is not good for anybody,” Furniture Row owner Barney Visser said in a statement. “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.”
Furniture Row was looking for sponsorship
5-Hour Energy announced earlier in the season that it wouldn’t return to the No. 78 team in 2019. It’s served as a co-primary sponsor with Bass Pro Shops on Truex’s car in 2018 after moving over from the No. 77 car.
The energy drink sponsored the No. 77 car for a season in 2017 while Erik Jones was with the team. With Matt Kenseth’s departure from Joe Gibbs Racing, Jones moved over to the No. 20 car in 2018 and the team went back to being a single-car team for 2018.
Martin Truex Jr. is now a free agent
The biggest question heading into the 2019 season now surrounds the future of Truex and his crew chief Cole Pearn. The two have been the best driver-crew chief combination in the Cup Series since joining forces in 2015.
Truex and Pearn have won 17 races over the last three-plus seasons, including eight victories as they won the 2017 championship. After a single win in 2015 with Chevrolet, Furniture Row has been dominant from 2016 and beyond as a Toyota team with a Joe Gibbs Racing alliance.
They shouldn’t have problems finding work in 2019. But at whose expense? Kurt Busch is a free agent at the end of the season. Could Truex fill his spot in the No. 41 car at Stewart-Haas Racing? Joe Gibbs Racing has been mentioned as a possible landing spot as well. It’s a natural fit given the alliance that’s been so fruitful. But any arrival at JGR would mean a driver currently employed by the team would have to move out.
This is terrible news for NASCAR
This can’t be sugarcoated. A team going from champion to going out of business in the span of less than 10 months is a disaster for NASCAR and the ultimate statement of how screwed up the economic model can be for teams. As teams have to spend more and more money to find speed and chase championships they have to look even harder to find sponsor dollars.
While Furniture Row may have stayed in business had 5-Hour not left, the influence of one sponsor’s decision to stay or leave NASCAR should not dictate the future of one of the best teams in the series. The sooner a legitimate conversation happens about NASCAR’s economic realities, the better.
The sanctioning body issued a vague statement about Furniture Row’s demise Tuesday afternoon.
“NASCAR wishes the very best to Barney Visser and his family. 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 and the entire #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.”
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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