In recent times, Furniture Row Racing has established itself as one of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series‘ premier teams. With Martin Truex Jr. driving the #78 Toyota Camry, the two won their first championship after a dominant 2017 campaign.
Just one year later, the team is packing up.
On Tuesday, FRR owner Barney Visser confirmed rumors that he intends to close his operation due to funding issues. Despite their success, the team has struggled to acquire new sponsorship, a situation that was exacerbated when close sponsor 5-hour Energy announced it would be departing the team after 2018.
“This is not good for anybody,” Visser stated in a press release. “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.”
Based out of Denver, Colorado, Furniture Row Racing has proven to be one of the Cup Series’ biggest success stories. For much of its early history, the team was relegated to start-and-parking due to low sponsorship and noncompetitive cars. In its first five years, FRR fielded cars for Jerry Robertson, Joe Nemechek, Kenny Wallace, and Regan Smith. From its first season in 2005 to 2010, the team failed to record a single top ten. Two years after Smith joined FRR in 2009, he scored a seventh-place finish at the Daytona 500, followed by an upset victory in the Showtime Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway later that year.
Kurt Busch took over the #78 in 2013. Although he did not win a race in his lone season with FRR, he made a run for the Chase, giving the team its first Chase appearance as he finished eighth in points.
After being released by Michael Waltrip Racing following a controversial end to 2013, Truex joined FRR in 2014. After a poor 2014 season that saw just five top tens, the team promoted engineer Cole Pearn to crew chief for 2015 and saw marked improvement, winning a race and finishing fourth in the Driver’s Championship.
FRR formed an alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota in 2016, resulting in the team becoming a weekly front-runner. Truex won four races in 2016, but was eliminated from the Chase after the second round.
In 2017, the team expanded to two cars as it added the #77 for JGR development driver Erik Jones with 5-hour Energy sponsorship. While Jones missed the playoffs, he recorded fourteen top tens. Meanwhile, Truex went on a tear, dominating stages as he had twenty-six top tens and a series-high eight wins en route to his first title.
The #77 was shuttered for the 2018 season as Jones moved to Gibbs’ #20. With the 2018 playoffs looming, Truex has continued his success with four wins as he sits third in points. However, rumors eventually surfaced of the team’s demise due to low sponsorship and rising costs of maintaining the technical alliance with Gibbs, an issue that Visser addressed in the release.
“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.”
Considering the team’s success, its inability to attract enough funding has come as a shock to the NASCAR community. While it is not the first time a champion team closed doors shortly after winning the title – Blue Max Racing, which won the 1989 title with Rusty Wallace, shut down a year later – a story like FRR having such an end is unfortunate. However, it has also left some perplexed.
In August, FRR downplayed the shutdown rumors, saying “not fielding a team in 2019 is not an option.” Yahoo! Sports writer Nick Bromberg tweeted he is “even more mystified” by the statement, which “seemingly came out of nowhere at the time. And ultimately ended up being completely untrue.”
“While I am saddened by today’s announcement, I totally understand the decision,” Truex said. “Barney Visser, Joe Garone and the entire Furniture Row Racing team took me in while my career was in a bad place, and together we reached the pinnacle of the sport. I will forever be grateful to each and every one of them, and also to Furniture Row, Denver Mattress and the Visser family.”
“But make no mistake this is not the immediate end. We still have unfinished business to attend to and that’s to give everything we have to successfully defend our Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship. Right now that is foremost on my mind as it is with the entire team.”
In 440 total Cup races so far, FRR has enjoyed 18 trips to Victory Lane, 70 top fives, 126 top tens, and 15 poles.