Furniture Row Racing owner hopes employees find new jobs after team shuts down

LAS VEGAS -- Barney Visser walked through the Las Vegas Motor Speedway garage Sunday getting hugs from employees and others as he came to his first race since announcing Sept. 4 that he would shut down Furniture Row Racing after the season.

Visser said the difficult decision to close the doors of the team that won the 2017 championship with Martin Truex Jr. has weighed on him, but he is most concerned that his employees find work.

"The hardest thing was making the decision, for sure," Visser said. "I can't say that [the weight of] it hasn't lightened up any since then. ... My main concern right now is just all these guys land on their feet. They're all better off if we can come in and win another championship, their value goes up.

"I just talked to one that doesn't have anything lined up right now. I'm concerned about these guys. That one hurts a little bit."

Visser said he was close to a deal to renew his alliance with car provider Joe Gibbs Racing when 5-hour Energy decided to drop its 14-race sponsorship.

Truex brought Bass Pro Shops to the team and is expected to take that with him to Joe Gibbs Racing. A 2018 championship contender with four victories this year and sitting third in the standings, Truex has won 16 races since 2016, but that wasn't enough to land the sponsorship to keep Furniture Row Racing going.

"When 5-hour dropped out, we waited a week or two to kind of watch things for a bit, and I knew the 41 [ride of Stewart-Haas driver Kurt Busch] was still open, and I gave Martin -- I really felt like if something was open out there, I was pretty sure we weren't going to make it -- and something was open out there that he should go take a look at it," Visser said. "I gave him permission to start talking to people. He found something. I don't know what it is."

Visser showed little interest of trying to restructure with another driver.

"Martin brought a lot of sponsorship with him," Visser said. "And if Martin's gone, I don't want to start over."

Visser also wouldn't blame JGR for increasing the price on the alliance. He wouldn't say how much the increase was, but Visser said he was willing to pay his fair share.

"What Joe Gibbs was talking about wasn't ridiculous," Visser said of the alliance fee. "His numbers were purely objective. ... What we couldn't agree on was how much we brought to them and how much that was worth spread over four cars. That was subjective.

"We were very close [to doing the deal] when we lost the big sponsor."

For much of the team's history, Visser paid for it as a way to market his Furniture Row stores and Denver Mattress brands. Furniture Row Racing began fielding Cup cars in 2005. It earned its first win in 2011 with Regan Smith at Darlington. Truex earned the team's second win by prevailing at Pocono in 2015.

"It was a lot of money," Visser said. "We primarily got into it for advertising. That's what we did. Of course, the TV audience has been falling off a little bit. That gets a little tougher to justify.

"It's tough for a new team coming in. You've got to have the right model. There's a model that runs in the back that seems to work for these guys. It's not something I'm interested in right now. We had a model that we just couldn't get anyone to pull together on, so that's what it is."