In a media availability on Friday with Truex and Garone, the idea of a second car was hinted by Joe Garone, general manager of Furniture Row.. “It’s certainly a part of it for the growth of the team. It’s been over this journey we started off and Barney (Visser, team owner), his company has funded our car all along and are still there, but Bass Pro Shops really coming onboard this last year has really opened up a door for other sponsorships. And, it’s kind of settled us to where we feel we’re getting strong enough to support a second effort and it’s no secret we’ve been working on that and we’ll see where that takes us. If we can get it all pulled together it will be ’17. Yep.”
However, after weeks of speculation and a preliminary report by Motorsport.com, Furniture Row Racing made it official Sunday before the Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen that Erik Jones will move from NASCAR Xfinity Series competition to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition in 2017 to field a second car for Furniture Row, alongside Martin Truex Jr., who re-signed this week with a two-year contract extension. 5-hour ENERGY will be the primary sponsor for the new no. 77 Toyota, leaving their current sponsorship of Clint Bowyer, driver of the no. 15 HScott Motorsports Chevrolet.
Barney Visser, owner of Furniture Row Racing, explains how quickly this deal came together. "We're very excited to have all the components of a second race team pulled together here. It's all come together in the last month.To find a driver like Erik, a sponsor like 5-Hour ENERGY, along with our technical agreement with Gibbs, we think we're going to be able to run right up where we need to run. We're very excited to get it all pulled together here.”
Rise Meguiar, vice president of Living Essentials, was also in attendance in today’s press conference. “They came to us and presented the program for Erik. I've been watching Erik and seen his talent in both series. We have watched what Furniture Row has done with the car that they have. We just felt that it was going to be a good place for us to be. It was just a really good fit.”
"It's hard to say I'm not excited but anxious at the same time, anxious for this day, and excited to be here. It's pretty cool for me to be partnered up with Furniture Row and be part of them growing and part of 5-Hour, too. To have such a big company like that be partnered with me is pretty cool this early in my racing career and something I've always wanted,” said Jones of his new partnership with Furniture Row and 5-hour ENERGY.
Toyota Racing Development is pumped to have a new team in Sprint Cup Series competition. "I think Erik ascending to the Cup level, for Toyota, this is the first time a Toyota driver has grown from the grassroots ranks all the way through NASCAR's national series. I think it's a great story for Toyota, but probably a greater story for NASCAR and the future of our sport,” said David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development USA.
Furniture Row Racing will be seeking charter status for the no.77 entry in 2017. "There's several charters out there that we're hearing are available. We've been looking at it some. We're not exactly sure where we're going to be on that. We are going to get a charter, but we're not sure who we're going to get it from yet,” said Visser.
Adding a second team, according to Garone, will not affect day-to-day operations because the team has already begun modifying the shop in Denver, Colorado to accommodate two cars.
Visser and Furniture Row hope the one-year deal with Jones will turn into many more to come.
5-Hour ENERGY will also be proudly displayed for two races on Martin Truex Jr.’s car, which includes the NASCAR All-Star Race in 2017.
Jones is the reigning NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion. He currently holds the top seed in the Xfinity Chase with three wins. He has clinched 11 top-five finishes in 2016. He also has six poles under his belt in 2016. With an average start of 2.7, Jones has an average finish of 11.4. Jones has a couple NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts under his belt from 2017, filling in for Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth in 2015. Jones also filled in for Denny Hamlin in Sprint Cup competition during the Food City 500 in support of Steve Byrnes and Stand Up to Cancer at Bristol Motor Speedway in early 2016.
With a one car operation, Furniture Row has clinched a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup in three of the last four years. In 2016, the team has one win, three top-five’s, three poles, an average start of 9.6, and an average finish of 13.4.
Denny Hamlin had the dominant car in the Daytona 500, leading a race-high 95 laps. The Sprint Unlimited winner last Saturday evening was victorious of Martin Truex, Jr. in the closest finish in the race’s 58-year history.
The No. 11 car margin of victory was .011 seconds. All day long it was Toyota’s in the front of the field, led by the foursome of Joe Gibbs Racing and contributed by Furniture Row Racing in its first race in a Camry.
Hamlin was running fourth as the field passed the finish line with one to go. Going into Turn 1 he made a bold move to the outside getting a push from Kevin Harvick, drafting him all the way to third when race leader Matt Kenseth went to block the No. 11 car, the two made contact sending the No. 20 team to the back.
It was then a dog fight down the front stretch to see who was going to claim victory, but in the end it was Hamlin who just edged Truex by inches.
“It’s storybook,” Hamlin said. “You want to win the close ones, it’s what makes it exciting. You make a pass on the last lap to win the Daytona 500. We all want to win for the Gibbs family because that is what they do. It’s good to see a family organization like this win the biggest race of the year.”
This marks Toyota’s first Daytona 500 win as an organization and its Joe Gibbs Racing’s first Daytona 500 win since 1993 when Dale Jarrett took the No. 18 team to victory.
In his first race back in a Toyota, Truex finished in a disappointing second and came up just short of writing his name in the history books as a Daytona 500 champion.
Though, he only led two laps on the afternoon, he was in a backup car after crashing in Thursday’s Can-Am Duels. He believes that the only shot he had at the victory was Kenseth’s move to block Hamlin.
“I felt like Matt (Kenseth) moving up to block that run, it gave us the best opportunity to win,” Truex said. “Without that we weren’t going to have that opportunity. I was really planning on trying to push Matt till off of four.”
365 days following his vicious crash in the XFINITY Series race at Daytona, Kyle Busch finished third in his first race back in the Great American Race since 2014.
There were stints in the race that the No. 18 car was the car out front pacing the field for 19 laps. This is his best career finish in a Daytona 500.
The first non-Toyota finisher was Kevin Harvick, whom finished fourth. The No. 4 car was near the front for the majority of the first run of the race, until the car wiggled off Turn 4, causing him to have an incredible save.
“The problem for us started early in the race when I got spun out and lost track position and never really got the track position back until the very end of the race,” Harvick said. “We were really in a good spot there as we were coming to the checkered flag. I just wanted to be that first car in the outside line and Denny wounded up popping out in front of us and winning the race.”
Carl Edwards rounded out the top five. He had to overcome an incident on Lap 56 where his No. 19 Camry got turned into the outside wall costing him to lose a couple of laps. After getting back on the lead lap, he methodically worked his way up to run with his teammates and evidently found them on the last restart with 12 laps to go.
The right front of the car was torn off following the checkered flag, causing Edwards to wonder how he was able to stay up in the lead pack, drafting and having a shot at the victory.
Last year’s Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano finished just outside the top five in sixth. He was very aggressive throughout the entirety of the event, but could never get his Fusion out front. With a couple of laps to go he made a move trying to gain track position and go to the front, but had no help.
Regan Smith placed eighth in the 500, one position short of his career best in this event. However, for a deal that got signed one month ago to the day, putting him back full-time in a Cup car with Tommy Baldwin Racing, he considered this experience as an “awesome race.”
After leading going into Turn 3 on the final lap Kenseth came home in a disappointing 14th. He was roughly 1000 yards from cementing his legacy has a three-time Daytona 500 winner, but dropped 13 positions in the time back to the checkered flag.
The No. 20 car was out front for 40 laps, second most of all drivers, but knows that the restrictor plate tracks fill the minority of the schedule.
The complex of the race changed on Lap 170 when pre-race favorite Dale Earnhardt, Jr. spun into the inside wall. After having a big run on the outside he overcorrected his car in Turn 4 and lost control.
The disappointing 36th-place finish is not how the 13-time most popular driver wanted to start off his year. This put an end to his four consecutive top five-streak in the Daytona 500.
Pole-sitter Chase Elliott had an eventful day from the very first lap. After being out front for the opening three circuits, the No. 24 lost control of his car out of Turn 4 much like his teammate did later in the race. A 37th-place result is not the way that the Cup rookie wanted to start off his campaign.
After one of the more exciting Daytona 500 in recent years, the Cup Series takes its circus to Atlanta Motor Speedway next weekend to truly start off the new season.
Martin Truex Jr. had many moments all throughout the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. One of those moments for the New Jersey native was the opportunity to compete in the final four at the Homestead-Miami Speedway and ending one of his biggest seasons in NASCAR yet.
Truex has overcome many struggles over the last two years. The driver was let go from Michael Waltrip Racing after NAPA left the team at the end of the 2013 Sprint Cup Series season because of the Richmond fiasco. After moving to Furniture Row Racing, Truex finished the 2014 season 24th in points while he went through some personal struggles outside of racing involving his girlfriend Sherry Pollex. While she battled with ovarian cancer, Truex was having a battle of his own on the track.
The 2015 season would turn around even more for the driver. Truex started out the season strong and eventually captured his first win since 2013 at the Pocono Raceway. The win also led Truex into the Chase and eventually into the final four at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. Truex would later become the Cinderella story of the year, joining Jeff Gordon’s last ride and Kyle Busch’s comeback story.
Despite being seen as the Underdog throughout the Chase, Truex not only found retribution for incidents that occurred over the last two seasons, but also took Furniture Row Racing -- a one car organization -- into the Chase and competing against some of the “powerhouse” teams in the Cup Series.
“Super proud of our season and really proud to come this far to come from 24th in points last year to 4th this year is a pretty big step, and I don't think most people realize just how big of a deal it is and how hard it was for us to get that far,” said Truex.
While most teams operate within the vicinity of Charlotte, Furniture Row Racing operates out of Denver, Colorado. Although the team had an alliance with the Richard Childress Racing organization, the team doesn’t necessarily operate the same way as RCR. With a single-car organization, Truex doesn't have teammates to rely on for information or to compare race strategies like some of his competitors.
“I mean, we were definitely up against a lot here. The odds were against us for sure. You know, obviously really proud of everybody, like I said, and you know, we didn't come here saying we were going to be okay finishing fourth. We came here and really tried everything in our power, everything we knew how to do, to put together our best performance. It just wasn't in the cards for us,” Truex said.
While Truex and the Furniture Row Racing team found the speed and consistency in 2015 under Chevrolet, the team will flip the switch to Toyota and form a new technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing. All four JGR drivers won races in 2015 and went on to score the championship with Kyle Busch this past weekend. Forming the new alliance will give the small team even more motivation going into 2016.
“I think this is great motivation for us for next year. I think that with the things we have coming and going to Toyota and teaming up with JGR and all that stuff, I think the future is bright for this team, and we're keeping all our guys together, and hopefully this is our first season battling for a championship but not our last. I really feel strong that this is a special group of guys, and if we can keep that together for hopefully the rest of my career, I'd love to drive for them,” Truex said.
With Truex being the feel good story of the year, earning five top five and 14 top 10 finishes through 15 races and sitting second in points, the win comes with a bonus that will give him redemption after going through some tough breaks over the last few seasons.
This is not the first time that he would make the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Truex made the exclusive club in 2013 by finishing position at the Richmond International Raceway. However, after the race had concluded, NASCAR suspected that Michael Waltrip Racing manipulated the results of the race and penalized each team under the Michael Waltrip Racing banner. With the points penalty issued, this took Truex out of the Chase.
That’s not all that happened. Truex and Michael Waltrip Racing also lost NAPA as a primary sponsor that left him without a ride. He then made the switch over to the Furniture Row Racing team, which is a single car operation based out of Colorado, as a way to reset his career. He started the year strong by qualifying on the front row for the 2014 Daytona 500.
Truex found some breakthroughs throughout the season with his new team, earning five top 10 finishes in 36 races. However, that performance would not be enough as he would finish the year sitting 24th in points. Truex also had to face another tough break towards the end of the season after his girlfriend was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
"At the end of that season I felt really fortunate that there was a great ride open with the 78," said Truex in his Pocono post-race press conference. "They were just coming off their best year ever, and went into last year honestly feeling like, okay, this is going to be good. This might take a little time to get things figured out, but it's going to be good and we're going to pick up kind of where I left off, and it was just the complete opposite. It was just miserable. Nothing went our way, nothing -- we had no speed."
Truex had another fresh start at the beginning of the 2015 season. The Furniture Row Racing team changed some things within the organization by giving Truex a new crew chief. So far, those changes have been paying off very well. The 34-year old has captured one victory, five top five and 14 top 10 finishes through the first 15 races of the year. With the solid performances, Truex finds himself sitting second in points.
Truex left the Kansas Speedway as one of the dominant cars throughout the entire race. Truex led 95 laps of the SpongeBob SquarePants 400. He then backed that up two weeks later at the Charlotte Motor Speedway as he led 131 laps in the Coca-Cola 600.
Truex backed up his performance once again at the Dover International Speedway. The No. 78 ended up being one of the fastest cars all day long despite a runner-up qualifying effort. Even though he had led the most laps, Truex had fallen short of the victory once again.
While being on a hot streak for the entire season, it was destined that Truex would eventually make his way into victory lane. That win finally occurred at the Pocono Raceway – a track that he had not won at before.
Truex qualified in third on Friday and ran within the leaders once the green flag waved. He would eventually work his way towards the front to lead the 160-lap race three different times. Despite a green-white-Checker finish, Truex was able to retain the lead by holding off Kevin Harvick.
The win at Pocono Raceway finally lifted all of the personal struggles, close calls and Richmond incident in 2013. The victory celebration ended up being one of the most emotional ones that any driver has had in a long time.
"Honestly, because this team deserves to win, and I knew that," said Truex. "I've known that all year long, obviously, especially after the last couple of weeks. I felt -- I've kind of throughout my career, I've kind of got used to the disappointment, honestly, and I've learned to deal with those days where it didn't go your way, even though you didn't do anything wrong."
Truex has been on one of the most extreme roller coaster rides that any driver has faced in the history of the sport since the Richmond incident. After coming close numerous times, Truex hadn't been able to capitalize the moment.
The races at Kansas, Charlotte and Dover were major heartbreakers for Truex after falling short of the win. He has spent the last three seasons waiting to take a trip into victory lane and have a huge shot at the championship.
Not only does Truex get back into the winning spotlight, it also gives the single car operation of Furniture Row Racing back into championship contention. The last time they have scored a victory was back in 2011 at Darlington with Regan Smith behind the wheel.
"You know, I wanted to win for this team because I knew how good they were, how much they deserved it, the job they've been doing, and I've just honestly been so proud of their outlook on the way this year has gone," Truex said.
2015 seems to be the best year for Truex to make his second Chase appearance. It would also be the second time that Front Row Motorsports got into the Chase as a single car team. Their first appearance came in 2013 with Kurt Busch as the driver, making them the first single car operation to do so.
Though the team is in position to compete in the chase, Truex feels like more work needs to be done.
"There's still mountains to climb and things to conquer," he said. "We haven't won a championship. This is one race. We've got a lot of work to do yet."
Not only does Truex get redemption and a spot in the chase, it's definitely redemption in his part that no one can remove him as long as he stays inside the top 16 of the Chase Grid. This will take weight off of his shoulders as the second half of the regular season gets going next week at Sonoma.
2014 was rough for Martin Truex, Jr. On and off the track, Truex and long-time girlfriend Sherry Pollex experienced plenty of trials and tribulations. However, the struggles of Pollex’s diagnosis of Stage III ovarian cancer have shown their true faith and persevere.
Following her surgery on Aug. 15, Truex had to miss part of the weekend at Michigan. With plenty of support from their NASCAR family, the two have continued to spearhead the Martin Truex, Jr. Foundation, which assists children with pediatric cancer. But with the struggles, Truex and his Furniture Row Racing team have grown closer together.
In his first year with the Denver, Co.-based organization, he earned a best finish of fourth at Kansas in October, and tallied up five top fives. The results, however, didn’t show Truex’s speed, especially late in the year. Leading just one lap on the season, he failed to carry over the success that he had in 2013 with Michael Waltrip Racing. But he was lacking chemistry with crew chief Todd Berrier, who hasn’t been in Victory Lane since 2007.
Finishing 24th in points in 2014 – the lowest mark in Truex’s nine full-time seasons in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series – he had an average finish of 20.2. Entering the season he expected to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup after his impressive 2013 season, and former FRR driver Kurt Busch made it into NASCAR’s version of the playoffs for the first time in the team’s history that year.
After Pollex’s diagnosis, Truex began performing much better. With six top-15 finishes in the final 13 races, compared to eight in the first 23 events, the New Jersey-native showed the team’s potential for the 2015 season.
For the new season, he will begin working with former lead race engineer for the team, Cole Pearn. It is expected that Truex will return to his 2013 form in the new season. The new rules package should go into his favor, which is slightly similar to the setup that he ran during his rookie year in 2007.
Expect Truex and Pearn to have some struggles at the start of the year. The continuing alliance with Richard Childress Racing should play into this one-car team’s favor, but this is a contract year for Truex. He will likely receive an offer to return to the team if he makes the Chase for the Sprint Cup, or at least comes close to making it, which could help build them into a top-tier organization. Having a consistent driver for just the second time in the team’s history is going to be a pivotal factor in their success, especially at the short tracks, which could be a place where they enter the winner’s circle.