Unable to attend festivities, team owner Barney Visser made surprise visit

Barney Visser spent a lot of time guiding his team to the top of the sport. AP Photo/NKP, Logan Whitton

LAS VEGAS -- The Furniture Row Racing team will celebrate its championship Thursday night, but it already has had one emotional celebratory moment since winning the NASCAR Cup title Nov. 19.

Before Cup champion Martin Truex Jr., crew chief Cole Pearn, general manager Joe Garone and others flew Monday night from Denver to Las Vegas, they had a special guest at the airport.

Team owner Barney Visser, just three weeks removed from heart bypass surgery, showed up to congratulate Truex.

Visser, who owns the Furniture Row chain of furniture stores and started the team in 2005, was his normal self in the sense he was a man of few words.

"He said, 'Hey you did it -- thanks,' " Truex said Wednesday in Las Vegas. "It was just cool to see his excitement. He put so much into the team, it was great to see it all pay off."

Because of the surgery, Visser cannot be at the awards ceremony Thursday night.

"I was completely shocked at how good he looked and how he's moving around and smiling and cutting up," Truex said. "He just looked, honestly, better than I've seen him look in quite a while, which was awesome."

There were no hugs -- Visser didn't want to chance catch any germs.

"He came and saw us for just a few minutes," Garone said. "He looks terrific. He came walking in -- he looks better now than he did before -- standing tall.

"He was normal Barney. A little bit more elated. He had a smile on his face that never left the whole time we were there. It was huge for me. There was a sense of joy."

For Pearn, he said it was just great to see Visser, who always wants to know what Pearn is doing to make cars go fast.

"He's doing great," Pearn said. "The coolest thing for me is I talked to him on the way to work in the week leading up to Homestead. We talked for about 30 minutes -- he needed to know what was going on.

"He doesn't want to interject, just wants to know. He's so passionate about it. He cares so much about it but lets us do our deal at the same time. It's pretty neat."