BRISTOL, Tenn. – The defending champion of NASCAR’s premier series is uncertain if he will return to the team next season.
“That’s hard to put a number on, honestly,” Martin Truex Jr. said when asked Friday to estimate a percentage of the likelihood he will drive for Furniture Row Racing next season. “I really don’t know. I think in another week or two I’ll have a better answer for you, a better percentage.
“Right now, we need sponsorship. That’s as simple as it gets. It’s hard to say. Is there a 50 percent chance we get that in the next couple of weeks? Or is there a 100 percent chance. Or is there 2 percent? I don’t know. I can tell you that everything really is based upon that.”
With Kurt Busch’s No. 41 ride at Stewart-Haas Racing unfilled for next year and Kasey Kahne’s retirement opening another seat, the garage chatter is growing louder about the annual spinning carousel of drivers heading to new teams. The contract statuses of Jamie McMurray and Ryan Newman also are murky for 2019.
Even though Truex won his first Cup title last year with a season-high eight victories and has four wins this year with Barney Visser’s No. 78 Toyota, he acknowledges his name is in the mix.
“I’m starting to hear rumors,” he said. “That’s kind of how it works in this sport. I’ve been in this position before. I’ve got a great team. Barney has done a lot for my career. It’s something we all want to keep going and just need a little bit of time to let the dominoes fall into place and see if we can keep it going. And if not, I have to figure it out from there.”
Truex is in his fifth season with Furniture Row Racing. The team is trying to plug a sponsorship hole left by 5 hour Energy, which is exiting after being a co-primary sponsor for 30 Cup races this season. The company’s departure was announced a month ago with the team in the throes of signing Truex to an extension.
Last season, Furniture Row Racing overcame a season of adversity, including the death of a team member and a heart attack for Visser. Truex said the team has learned to focus through distractions.
“The biggest thing for us as a group (is) we’ve kind of been in this situation before,” he said. “Really the past couple of seasons, we’ve been at a tipping point at some point in time, and we’ve been just been able to focus on doing our jobs.
“We always feel like that at the end of the day, if we do our jobs and we do them well, and we’re winning races, that’s our best opportunity to keep things going the way they are. I think that’s not going to change. That’s what we have to do. The commitments people made to us are through the end of the season. No matter what happens, this is a professional sport, and we need to hold up our end of the deal, and the guys understand that. We’re going to fight as hard as we can no matter what next year looks like and try to repeat what we did last year.”