Joe Garone

Long: Tears turn to cheers for Furniture Row Racing

Leave a comment

KANSAS CITY, Kansas — Among his final acts alive, James “Jim” Watson texted his wife Saturday night and told her what a great time he was having with his Furniture Row Racing teammates at a local go-kart track.

Soon after, the 55-year-old father suffered a fatal heart attack.

“I take a little bit of solace in that he was happy in his last moments,’’ said a misty-eyed Cole Pearn after Martin Truex Jr. rallied to win Sunday’s Cup race at Kansas Speedway.

Pearn was on the way to the hospital Saturday night when he was told Watson died. The team later gathered at their hotel to grieve.

“We just all looked at each other and shed some tears and some hugs,’’ Pearn told NBC Sports.

No Cup team has faced so much personal adversity in such a public way this year as Furniture Row Racing. Its greatest season on the track has been offset by tragedy and tribulation.

Truex’s longtime girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, had surgery in July for a recurrence of cancer. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in August 2014 and announced she was cancer-free in January 2016. Her ovarian cancer returned this summer. Truex won at Kentucky Speedway and brought her home from the hospital the next day. Her chemo treatments continue.

After the Kentucky race, Pearn’s closest childhood friend suddenly died after he caught a bacterial infection from a cut. Truex won that weekend at Watkins Glen to cap what Pearn called then “the hardest week of my life.’’

After Truex won at Charlotte two weeks ago, Pearn said “my wife and I put our dog down … that we’ve had for 13 years.

“It’s just like, man, I don’t know if regular life is supposed to be like this.’’

Then came Saturday night.

Watson had been with the team since February, joining as a fabricator, who worked on both the cars of Truex and Erik Jones. Watson was a longtime racer from Wisconsin.

“James was a friend to everybody,’’ said Joe Garone, president of Furniture Row Racing. “It’s hard to talk about.’’

Truex said both teams helped each other work through the pain while preparing for the race Sunday morning. Truex’s seventh victory of the season continued his dominance and is the most wins by a Cup driver in a season since Matt Kenseth won seven races in 2013.

Pearn called it “kind of overwhelming” to see Truex cross under the checkered flag ahead of the field less than 24 hours after Watson’s death. 

“I was doing OK and then I started seeing the faces on other guys,’’ Pearn told NBC Sports. “It just hits you like a ton of bricks.’’

When Truex won in the past, it had just been the No. 78 crew that gathered in Victory Lane. Sunday, the No. 77 crew also joined Truex’s team to celebrate a win and a life.

“Chris (Gayle) and I came to it … that if either one of us were fortunate enough to win, we’d both go to Victory Lane because Jim worked on both of our cars and was a part of both of our teams,’’ Pearn said of the crew chief for the No. 77 team.

It proved a fitting honor for Watson.

“He always wanted when we won to celebrate as a group,’’ Pearn said. “I just couldn’t think of any better way to pay tribute to him and know that he would have been happy with that call.’’

Tough night but the result was some solace we all needed. So proud of the team. For you Wildman RIP

A post shared by Cole Pearn (@colepearn) on

Furniture Row Racing sells charter from No. 77 car for next season

Getty Images
Leave a comment

JOLIET, Illinois — Furniture Row Racing has sold its charter for the No. 77 team for next year but is still looking for sponsorship to run the car in 2018.

Joe Garone, president of Furniture Row Racing, said the team sold the charter — he declined to name what team purchased it — because of lack of sponsorship for the No. 77 team next year.

“We’re still working on obtaining sponsorship,’’ Garone said Friday at Chicagoland Speedway. “If something happens in the next few weeks, it’s definitely not dead. We definitely want to keep the 77 running, but we’re running out of time.’’

Garone concedes the chances of the organization being a single-car team next year are “high.’’

Even without a charter, a team can run in the series. Any team that has a charter must run every race. If they skip a race, they lose the charter immediately and the financial benefits that go with it.

Garone acknowledged that if the team found sponsorship to run the car for the full season, there would be the opportunity to lease or buy a charter from another team.

Garone said Furniture Row Racing will not lay off any employes if it contracts to one car next season. A couple of positions will follow rookie Erik Jones to Joe Gibbs Racing next season. Garone concedes those who work on the road crew and want to continue to do that also could leave.

“We’re hoping everyone will stay,’’ Garone said.

“As far as the shop goes, we’re going to be one really strong single-car team.’’

Garone said that 5-hour Energy will remain with Furniture Row Racing and would move to the No. 78 of Martin Truex Jr.

Garone said team owner Barney Visser is not interested in running a second car in a limited number of races next year.

“If the 77 runs … it will be running for a championship, not just a partial (season),’’ Garone said.

 and on Facebook

Film tells story of Furniture Row Racing’s rise to contender status

(Furniture Row Racing)
2 Comments

A new film depicting the rise of Furniture Row Racing, which a media release called “from a non-traditional startup team to a contender in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series,” has been released on YouTube.com and Furniture Row’s Facebook page.

“Pioneers: We Are 78” tells the story of the one-car team (which will expand to two cars in 2017) from its inception to the present day.

Per the media release, “The film features how a major league auto racing team defied all odds through innovation and a pioneer-style work ethic when it based its operation 11 years ago in Denver, 1500 miles from NASCAR’s racing hub in Charlotte, N.C.”

The film was produced by Furniture Row digital marketing and Los Angeles-based Conscious Minds studio.

The film features team owner and Denver natives Barney Visser and team president Joe Garone, as well as driver Martin Truex Jr., who has captured four wins, five poles and leads the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in laps led at 1,809.

Click here to view the film on YouTube or go to the Furniture Row Racing Facebook site.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Martin Truex Jr. signs 2-year contract to remain at Furniture Row Racing

4 Comments

Furniture Row Racing announced Thursday night that Martin Truex Jr. has signed a two-year agreement to remain with the team. Truex’s current contract expires after this season.

Furniture Row Racing also announced that Bass Pro Shops will increase its primary sponsorship from 12 to 16 races in 2017, starting with the season-opening Daytona 500.

“The signing of Martin Truex Jr. to a new contract and Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats adding more races to its primary sponsorship package are signs of strength and confidence for the future of Furniture Row Racing,” said team president Joe Garone in a statement from the team. “Martin has proved over and over that he is one of the blue chip drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and we are elated that he will continue to drive our No. 78 Toyota.”

Said Truex in a statement: “I am pleased that we’re going to continue our momentum from this season. This is where I want to be, driving the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota. We’ve come a long way in a short period of time. There are many reasons to feel excited and optimistic about the future of our racing program starting with the commitment from our team owner Barney Visser, the support from Toyota, the technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing and the Bass Pro Shops sponsorship. We definitely have the resources and talent to go after victories and championships.”

Truex, who has clinched a Chase spot this season, has been with Furniture Row Racing since 2014. He raced for the championship last year in Miami. Truex has one win and one top-10 finishes this season. He ranks first in the series in laps led with 1,005.