Furniture Row Racing to join Toyota; Truex returning

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LOUDON, N.H. – Furniture Row Racing will switch from Chevrolet to Toyota next season and have Martin Truex Jr. back as driver, the team announced Sunday.

As part of the move, Furniture Row will join a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing, which will provide the team’s chassis. Toyota Racing Development, which builds engines for Joe Gibbs Racing, will build Furniture Row’s engines.

The move will help Furniture Row with its plans to expand to a two-car operation – pending sponsorship – in 2017. The team will have Truex next season after signing him to a one-year deal, but a team official said the organization intends to keep Truex beyond 2016.

“We’re looking for sponsorship to help us with that,” team owner Barney Visser said of a long-term contract for Truex. “The kind of contract he deserves we’re not able to do on our own right now. We’re looking for sponsorship to help us pull that together. I do think he’s just peaking in his career and we don’t want to lose him.”

The manufacturer switch ends months of speculation after Visser and other team officials said they were considering options beyond Chevrolet.

“Part of the progression to try to expand our team is to find a platform that would continue our growth and Toyota … gives us this platform,’’ said Joe Garone, president and general manager for Furniture Row Racing. “The proven track record for performance just fits perfectly with where we want to head. Being a single-car team and wanting to expand, it’s kind of helped us to do that.’’

Toyota has five of the six cars it builds engines for in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Joe Gibbs Racing has won the past three races and eight of the last 10 races. JGR’s four drivers entered Sunday’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the top four spots in the points, led by Matt Kenseth.

Furniture Row Racing is in the Chase for the second time in three years. Truex has a win, seven top-five finishes (tying a career high) and 17 top-10 finishes this season.

David Wilson, president and general manager of Toyota Racing Development, said the addition of Furniture Row increases the expectations for the manufacturer.

“It puts a lot of pressure on all of us to perform,’’ Wilson said. “We’ve said that it’s somewhat of a leap of faith that they’re taking because you could argue why make a change as well as they’ve been running. It’s the belief that we collectively share in how we can even be better yet.’’

Garone said the move isn’t a leap of faith but makes sense “because we think we can do greater. We think these partners will be able to help.’’

Furniture Row Racing, which has about 50 employees, is based in Denver, Colo. Furniture Row’s pit crew had worked out of Michael Waltrip Racing but will based at Joe Gibbs Racing after this season. Furniture Row Racing receives engines from Earnhardt Childress Racing and chassis from Richard Childress Racing as part of its alliance with RCR.

Toyota officials stressed the move to add Furniture Row was in place before Michael Waltrip Racing announced it would not field a full-time entry next season. While Wilson said Toyota is looking at other teams to be aligned with next year, only Furniture Row and Joe Gibbs Racing will share in their technical alliance.