Furniture Row Racing fails to land sponsor for '19, to shut down

Furniture Row Racing, which won the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series title with Martin Truex Jr., will close after the 2018 season.

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 sponsorship to keep the team going.

With 5-Hour Energy not renewing its sponsorship for 2019, leaving the team with a 14-race hole, team owner Barney Visser opted to close despite saying a month ago that not racing in 2019 wasn't an option.

"This is not good for anybody," Visser said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. "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.

"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."

Visser, founder and owner of the Furniture Row chain of stores, had invested tens of millions of dollars into his team, and Truex said in July that he didn't expect Visser to want to continue funding the car.

"While I am saddened by today's announcement, I totally understand the decision," Truex, who joined the team in 2014, said in a statement. "Barney Visser, [general manager] 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."

Truex will need a ride for 2019, with Joe Gibbs Racing as the most likely possibility if JGR can move one of its drivers, most likely Daniel Suarez, to a Toyota satellite team.

"This is that time of year, isn't it?" team owner Joe Gibbs said Sunday night amid the speculation. "I think there's a lot right now that is up in the air. I think the big thing is what the 78 [of Furniture Row does] and everything about that. Right now, there's nothing to comment on."

Gibbs likes his driver stable, but everyone would want Truex. Suarez is the driver most often mentioned as the one who could get shuffled.

"We do like [Suarez]," Gibbs said when asked if Suarez could be the driver moved. "There's so much out there; most of it is not accurate."

In a statement Monday, Gibbs didn't address whether he had interest in Truex.

"We have a great partnership with Barney and everyone at Furniture Row Racing," Gibbs said. "It's unfortunate that they will not be continuing after this season and I know it was a difficult decision for them."

Truex crew chief Cole Pearn could join Truex at JGR if the deal can be done. Also lurking for Truex's services is Stewart-Haas Racing. SHR has a long relationship with Truex sponsor Bass Pro Shops. But Toyota and Bass Pro also are tight with BPS-branded Tundras.

Toyota Racing Development President David Wilson said Tuesday he hopes many of the Furniture Row Racing employees could go to JGR or another Toyota team. Toyota typically likes to have five or six cars in the field, and with just JGR, it would have four.

"We are working diligently with our partners in the sport to pick up as many of the pieces as possible," Wilson said. "I can't speak in specific terms and detail for another few days.

"We'd like to keep as many of the team members at Furniture Row Racing in the Toyota stable, and certainly at the front of the list is Martin Truex Jr."

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.

The loss of the team is a blow to NASCAR and Toyota.

"Toyota remains committed to NASCAR," Wilson said. "While we are genuinely saddened and disappointed in the news that Furniture Row won't continue in the sport, it's not lessening our resolve to field competitive teams and to continue to compete for wins and championships.

"We are working as an industry ... with NASCAR on solutions to make our sport stronger."

NASCAR issued a statement indicating it is trying to address the financial stability of its teams.

"NASCAR wishes the very best to Barney Visser and his family," NASCAR said in a statement. "Barney has been a successful owner and an amazing champion, and his presence will certainly be missed. ... NASCAR will continue to work on growing the sport and working with the race teams on competitive and operational excellence.

"Much of those efforts have already been put in place, and will continue to be a focus."

It also is a blow to those who championed a team not being in North Carolina -- the team is based in Denver, Colorado -- and being successful as a smaller operation with an alliance with a bigger organization.

"I've always felt that we could be a competitive team and run for a championship even when it seemed like a pipe dream to many racing insiders," Visser noted. "But to be successful in any business you need to assemble the right people and make a strong commitment to succeed.

"We achieved what we set out to do and feel like we climbed Mount Everest. To continue with anything less than a competitive team would not be acceptable."

Visser couldn't attend the championship race last year after suffering a heart attack a couple of weeks earlier.

"I had a wake-up call last year and while I feel great, I need to make the best decisions that will have an impact on myself and my family," Visser said. "My wife, Carolyn, and the entire Visser family have been supportive of our racing journey and it's been one incredible ride for all of us."