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Martin Truex Jr. on why his merry ‘bunch of misfits’ were title worthy

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CHARLOTTE – There has been much speculation about how a Denver-based team quickly morphed from underdog to champion in NASCAR’s premier series.

Martin Truex Jr. has a simple explanation for what caused Furniture Row Racing to jell so quickly since joining a team that finished 24th in the 2014 points standings.

“A bunch of misfits got together,” the 2017 series champion said with a laugh during the latest NASCAR on NBC podcast. “Nobody else wanted us all, so we just ended up together. I don’t know that you can formulate the plan or hand-pick all the people you wanted to have the chemistry we have.

“We’re all so different. Our personalities are very different. Our hobbies are very different. Our political views are very different. But yet we go to the racetrack, and we all think as one. It’s just the most incredible thing I’ve ever been part of, and I don’t know that you can just see that coming. That’s just one of those things that you throw in a pot and stir it up and (say), ‘There it is. Let’s see what it tastes like.’ ”

The yin and yang of the team is perhaps best exemplified by the relationship of crew chief Cole Pearn and engineer Jeff Curtis.

“They are complete opposites,” Truex said. “When it comes to the race cars, they’re on top of things. They’re thinking ahead of each other. It’s crazy the way they work together.”

During an appearance on the podcast last year, Pearn explained that a running joke at Furniture Row Racing is asking “Who’s in charge of that?” because the team eschews the hierarchy employed by many large teams. Truex said the emphasis on more autonomy breeds goodwill among team members.

“It’s fun for me because it just has that small-team feel, kind of old-school feel,” Truex said. “We have a lot of fun. It’s not so serious all the time. It’s hard to believe because we’ve had so much success but also because of that, our guys have more fun, they don’t feel as much pressure.

“We’ve all been in situations that we hated before that we didn’t like and weren’t successful in, and we understand parts of the reason we weren’t successful is we weren’t happy. At the same time, our guys have no problem being held accountable if they screw up. You can yell at them all day long, and we go out to dinner and everyone is best friends again. I think it’s all part of like being the runt of the litter. Whether we got fired or lost our job or ride or whatever it may be.”

Truex said that includes Pearn, who is in his second go-around with the team.

“Cole got fired at Furniture Row the first time he was there” in 2011, Truex said. “So it’s almost like this is all everyone’s homecoming. A last hurrah, ‘we’re going to show them’ kind of deal.”

On the podcast, Truex also discusses:

–His Philadelphia Eagles fandom and first trip to the Super Bowl this weekend (he’ll be making some appearances with NBC Sports);

–The career crossroads at which he signed a contract extension with Furniture Row for below market value because “Do I want to be successful or do I want to make good money?”;

–The 2018 outlook for Furniture Row, which is returning to a single car.

Click on the embed above to hear the podcast or listen and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify or wherever you download podcasts.

NASCAR America: Clint Bowyer’s crew chief wants him ‘focused’ during Kansas weekend

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For some reason Clint Bowyer can’t catch a break at his home track of Kansas Speedway.

Bowyer has just two top fives in 20 starts at the 1.5-mile track, with the last one coming in 2013.

Bowyer’s crew chief, Mike Bugarewicz, told NASCAR America’s Marty Snider his theory about Bowyer’s lackluster performances.

“Bugarewicz admitted to me last week, he said ‘Listen, I know when you go to your hometown race friends and family always want to tug and pull at your time. It is certainly a distraction,'” Snider said. “He told me, ‘I’m not going to ask Clint to change his schedule, but on Friday, when he walks into the garage area, I want him focused on our race team.’ And you can see it may have been a distraction in the past for Bowyer. He has just one top 10 in his last 10 starts (in Kansas).”

Watch the above video for more on Clint Bowyer.

NASCAR America: Martin Truex Jr. looks for rebound at reliable Kansas

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Martin Truex Jr. started the playoffs on good footing, finishing third in the first two races at Las Vegas and Richmond after leading the most laps in both races. He then was one turn away from winning on the Charlotte Roval before being spun by Jimmie Johnson.

Then he more or less disappeared, with his last two races culminating in a “miserable” run at Talladega and a 23rd-place finish.

Entering this weekend’s elimination race at Kansas, where he’s won two of the last three races, Truex is 18 points above the cutoff spot in the last transfer position.

On NASCAR America, Parker Kligerman and Dale Jarrett discussed the defending series champion’s prospects entering Kansas.

“Someone is always having a problem and falling out of that eighth (playoff seed in the elimination race),” Jarrett said. “Can that happen this Sunday afternoon? It certainly can happen. Can Martin Truex be that one? You wouldn’t think (so) because he’s done so well over the years at this race track regardless of what car he was driving. … He just knows how to get the job done there.”

Kligerman said “there’s no doubt in my mind that they will advance” if the No. 78 team does everything they do well.

Watch the above video for more.

 

 

Long: Is Talladega supposed to look like this?

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So what is NASCAR? Is it a sport? Or is it a show?

Admittedly, those in the NASCAR offices likely will view its racing as both. But that creates a conflict over how to look at Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway.

If one views it as a sporting event, Stewart-Haas Racing’s domination — qualifying all of its cars in the top four, running there much of the race and Aric Almirola winning with Clint Bowyer second — should be celebrated because SHR did what every team hopes to do every weekend.

But that performance doesn’t play well to the overall view of the race (or show). With SHR controlling the front and drivers battling ill-handling cars, the two- and three-wide racing so common at Talladega often was replaced by single-file racing.

The 15 lead changes were the fewest at Talladega since 1973.

Green flag passes — a stat NASCAR tracks based on position changes over each scoring loop on every lap — were down 54.4 percent from last fall’s playoff race at Talladega.

Think about that … lead changes at its lowest level since before any driver in Sunday’s race was born and green-flag passes down more than 50 percent from the previous year.

Is that something fans want to see more of?

Doesn’t seem to be the case based on Jeff Gluck’s weekly Twitter poll. He stated that only 42 percent of those who voted this week thought Talladega was a good race.

Fewer than 50 percent of the voters said either Talladega race this year was a good one in Gluck’s poll. The April race had 24 lead changes — the fewest for that event since 19 lead changes in the 1998 race — and saw a 57.8 percent decline in green-flag passes.

There’s an expectation when NASCAR races at Daytona and Talladega of pack racing, passing and wild action.

Such was in limited supply at both Talladega races this year. But it wasn’t just there. The four plate races (Daytona and Talladega) saw 89 lead changes this season — down 29.4 percent from last year’s plate races.

While three of the four plate races this year ended with a last-lap pass (Austin Dillon in the Daytona 500, Erik Jones at Daytona in July and Aric Almirola at Talladega last weekend), not everyone may be willing to wait through the racing to those final laps.

With the 2019 rules package, NASCAR anticipates pack racing to remain key at Daytona and Talladega but Sunday’s race might force series officials to make some additional changes to ensure the pack is back next year.


Questions have been raised about how NASCAR officiated the end of the Truck and Cup races this weekend at Talladega.

Kurt Busch was critical of NASCAR’s decision. Had NASCAR called a caution for the crash in Turn 1 on the last lap, Busch likely would have won. Instead, he ran out of fuel and Aric Almirola won.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, explained Monday on SirusXM NASCAR Radio how series officials made the call on if to throw the caution in either race.

“Our first job is to always make sure everybody is safe, and we felt we did that in this case,” O’Donnell said about letting the Cup race finish under green.

While each last-lap scenario presents different challenges, NASCAR must remain steadfast in following what O’Donnell said in terms of driver safety. That must be No. 1 regardless of it is the last lap at Talladega, the last lap of the Daytona 500 or the last lap of the championship race in Miami.

NASCAR must be consistent with that. And that may mean calling for a caution instead of a dramatic race to the finish line.


It won’t be next year but maybe someday GMS Racing likely will field a Cup team.

GMS Racing, owned by Maury Gallagher, was in talks with Furniture Row Racing earlier this year to purchase the team’s charter, align with Joe Gibbs Racing and move to Cup next season. It’s one of the reasons why the team, through Mike Beam, didn’t try to top Front Row Motorsports’ bid for BK Racing’s charter and equipment in a court-appointed auction in August.

After examining all the costs, Gallagher decided not to pursue the Furniture Row Racing charter and equipment.

“We’re still talking and thinking about it, but first things first, we’re trying to get through this year and do some good things, particularly winning the (Truck) championship,” Gallagher said after Timothy Peters won the Truck race at Talladega.

Spencer Gallagher called the deal not working out a “tempered disappointment” but added “we got into that deal and we realized that we were going to have to undertake some additional complications with it. More than anything, if and when we make the decision to go Cup racing, I’d like to think that if we have one true luxury it is that we get to choose when and where we get to do it, which means that we’re committed to only doing it if it can be done right.

“As Maury likes to say, there’s always another deal that comes along. Patience is our watchword for getting ourselves into Cup.”

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NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Kansas preview, Scan All Talladega

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and continues to look at the fallout of the Talladega Cup race.

Carolyn Manno hosts with Parker Kligerman from the Stamford Studio. Dale Jarrett joins them from the Charlotte Studio.

On today’s show:

  • As the playoffs head for Kansas, only Aric Almirola and Chase Elliott are safe. And as we’ve seen in years past, big names have entered the Round of 12 cut race with good points cushions – only to meet with disaster and elimination. Which driver above the cut line should be the most worried?
  • Marty Snider is at Stewart-Haas Racing with a report on how they’re looking to have all four of their drivers advance again in the playoffs. Plus – he talks 1-on-1 with Aric Almirola’s crew chief, John Klausmeier, about how the No. 10 team is preparing for the Round of 8.
  • Almirola and Co. are riding high, but Brad Keselowski and the No. 2 crew are in big trouble. A three-week series of unfortunate events have put them 18 points behind the cut line. Can they find a way to save their season? Steve Letarte talks with their champion crew chief, Paul Wolfe.
  • And we’ll take one last look – and listen – to last weekend’s wild finish that shook up the playoff picture in Scan All Talladega.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.