With the recent announcement of expanding to a second NASCAR Cup team in 2017, Furniture Row Racing announced today that it has hired Chris Gayle as the crew chief for the team’s new entry – the No. 77 5-hour ENERGY Toyota to be driven by Erik Jones.
Gayle, a 17-time winning crew chief to date in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, joins Furniture Row Racing after a 14-year career as an engineer and crew chief with Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR). He was promoted from engineer to crew chief at JGR in 2013.
“We are thrilled to have Chris join our team and work with Erik (Jones) next season,” said Joe Garone, Furniture Row Racing team president. “His crew chief record in the XFINITY Series has been impressive, but more importantly his record proves that he knows what it takes to win a race. It’s a great fit with Chris coming from Joe Gibbs Racing with whom we have a technical alliance. This hire has all the makings of a seamless transition for Chris since he has already worked with Erik and has a thorough understanding of the Toyota affiliation.”
Gayle’s first two XFINITY seasons as crew chief were with driver Elliott Sadler. In 2015 he served as the crew chief for the No. 54 Toyota, working with a number of drivers after Kyle Busch was injured in the season opener at Daytona. He also has worked with multiple drivers this season on the No. 18 JGR Toyota.
Nine of Gayle’s 17 wins in the XFINITY Series have come this season – seven by Kyle Busch and one each by Denny Hamlin and Sam Hornish Jr. Gayle also served as the crew chief when Jones won the 2015 XFINITY race at Chicagoland Speedway.
“I watched Furniture Row Racing from afar and have been impressed with the success they have had with Martin (Truex Jr.) in the No. 78 Toyota,” said the 40-year-old Gayle. “This is a great opportunity to join a first-class team led by owner Barney Visser, who is deeply committed to provide the necessary resources to be successful in the Cup series. I also want to help Furniture Row Racing grow an already strong relationship with Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing. I look forward to moving to Denver -- it’s an awesome city. My wife Brandi says she is more about mountains than beaches.”
Regarding working with Erik Jones in NASCAR’s top-tier division, Gayle said, “I have had the opportunity to work with Erik in the XFINITY Series and there is no doubt in my mind that he has an incredible future in the Cup Series. His talent and maturity are beyond his years and there’s not a better young driver to work with as I begin a new chapter in my career.”
Jones, 20, shared his enthusiastic thoughts about working with Gayle during his 2017 rookie season.
“I am not only excited to have Chris as my crew chief, but also excited for Chris in a career move that he deserves,” said Jones. “I have worked with Chris and we have a mutual respect for each other. I feel we have an opportunity to have a good year together, and at the same time, build a team from the ground up. Chris has had tremendous success in the XFINITY Series and has shown time after time how to win races. We can’t wait to make our debut in Daytona with the No. 77 5-hour ENERGY Toyota."
Gayle and his family – wife Brandi and 19-month-old daughter Cora -- will move to Denver where he will start working out of the Furniture Row Racing shop following the 2016 campaign.
A native of Little Rock, Ark., Gayle attended the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville for two years before transferring to the University of North Carolina Charlotte, where he graduated in 2002 with a mechanical engineering degree.