Martin Truex Jr. was asked Friday about his chances of returning to the No. 78 car in 2019. He couldn’t issue a guarantee.
“That’s hard to put a number on,” Truex said. “Honestly, I really don’t know. I think in another week or two I’ll have a better answer for you. Better percentage – right now, we need sponsorship and that’s as simple as it gets. It’s hard to say, is there a 50 percent chance we get that in a couple weeks or a hundred percent chance or two percent, I don’t know. I can tell you that everything is based upon that.”
Truex is the defending Cup Series champion. He’s won four races in 2018. His team has become one of the best in the garage over the last four years. And he does not know if he’s returning to it in 2019. That’s NASCAR in 2018 for you.
Furniture Row made a chin-scratching move earlier in the month by announcing that it wouldn’t be shutting down after the 2018 season. The statement came out of nowhere — there hadn’t been rumblings that the team was going anywhere — but also came on the heels of its announcement that sponsor 5-Hour Energy wouldn’t be returning in 2019.
Furniture Row owner Barney Visser has self-sponsored his team for many years. But with the dissolution of the No. 77 car after the 2017 season, the 5-Hour sponsorship it had moved to Truex’s team. Combined with Bass Pro Shops and a few other sponsored races, Truex’s car has been fully sponsored without Furniture Row putting sponsor money into it in 2018.
Will Visser be willing to put Furniture Row’s name back on the car in 2019? That certainly doesn’t seem to be one of the first choices. And Truex at least seems publicly willing to admit there’s a chance he’ll be driving for another team in 2019.
“I’m starting to hear rumors,” Truex said. “That’s kind of how it works in this sport, I’ve been in this position before. I’ve got a great team – Barney has done a lot for my career. It’s something we all want to keep going and just need a little bit of time to let the dominoes fall into place and see if we can keep it going and if not, I have to figure it out from there.”
If Truex and Furniture Row part ways — a possibility that seems pretty surreal given their recent success — it’ll be fascinating to see where he ends up. And also a damning indictment on NASCAR’s economic environment.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.