HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Heading into its final race, roughly a third of Furniture Row Racing’s 63 employees will remain looking for work after the championship team’s closure.
During a news conference Friday morning at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Furniture Row Racing president Joe Garone said “it’s been brutal at the end here” for the Denver, Colorado-based team.
“You can imagine how sick you feel when you see it coming to a close,” Garone said. “You deal with those emotions and look at what life’s next great adventure is going to be, and I think that’s where we’re at, but we want to close this out on top first if we can beat these guys.”
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Martin Truex Jr. will race for a second consecutive championship in Sunday’s season finale, driving a No. 78 Toyota sporting a flat black paint scheme that honors its origins as being sponsored solely by team owner Barney Visser’s furniture companies. Started in 2005, Furniture Row Racing scored its first victory in 2011, made the playoffs in 2013 and then reached the Championship 4 in 2015 with Truex, who won his first Cup title last year.
The success led to external sponsorship for the team over the past few years, but it effectively led to its demise, too, as the loss of a primary sponsor in July led Visser to make the decision to shut down.
Truex and crew chief Cole Pearn will be joining Joe Gibbs Racing next season with some team members, and others have found jobs with other teams or within Visser’s business portfolio.
“Our last count, we’re about 22 from everybody having jobs,” Garone said. “Barney has a lot of companies, and there was a lot of positions that were open, and a lot of the guys filled those positions. And these are championship-caliber guys. They’ve been being entertained by a lot of teams. They’re good guys to have on your team for sure.”
Garone, a longtime team executive who also has worked as a crew chief and NASCAR official, is uncertain of his future but is exploring the possibility of starting an offshore powerboat team.
“My heart wants to certainly stay with Barney; he’s just unbelievable and just a crazy player,” he said. “I love him, and I want to stay with him. On the other side, I need to race. It’s in my blood and DNA, and I’m looking all over even in different series, and hopefully in the next month, I’ll be able to announce something that will lead me down a different path.”
In the short term, he will be focused on liquidating what’s left of the team’s assets, the majority of which will be sold.
“The shop is going to stay intact at the moment,” Garone said. “Barney is funny. At one moment, he wants to keep it like in a showroom condition with as many cars as we can keep so people can still come see and remember the history. And at other times he wants to change it into a different manufacturing plant.
“So I’m not exactly sure what our future is, but he has a real heart for this and wants to preserve for as long as he can, possibly for years with his kids, this moment in history that he’s gone through.”