Martin Truex Jr. reflects on ‘end of an era’ for Furniture Row Racing

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As NASCAR marked the end of the Cup season Thursday with the Awards banquet in Las Vegas, it also marked the official end for Furniture Row Racing, which Martin Truex Jr. affectionately called “a special team, a special time.”

Hours after crew chief Cole Pearn tweeted a photo of the team’s Denver, Colorado, shop on his last day there, Truex graced the banquet stage for the last time as driver of the team’s No. 78 Toyota.

A year after being recognized as the series champion, Truex gave his speech as the second-place finisher.

Afterward, Truex reflected on the “end of an era” for the team, which he joined in 2014 and won 17 races with.

“I’m really proud of the effort,” Truex told reporters. “You never know if the next chapter will be as successful as the last one. Just thankful for all the people around me and for (owner) Barney (Visser) and what he gave us, what he allowed us all to do. It was a special time. Hopefully, we can continue that success. But nothing’s guaranteed.”

Truex sad that he was “sad” he placed second to Joey Logano in the standings, but said it was important to get the chance to acknowledge all that Visser did for Truex and the team one last time on the banquet stage.

“I think it’s special, an important time to be able to get up there and say those things,” Truex said. “Just really pass on the word for the team and represent the team like that so all our fans can see it. I was glad he was here. He wasn’t here last year (due to recovering from surgery after a heart attack). I wish he was here last year, not this year to be honest. … It’s hard. You get two to three minutes to say a few things. I’ll never be able to tell him or express just how much he means to me, what he’s done and what the last five years mean to me and the things he’s done for my career. Sad times for all of us.

“I know Cole’s in a tough spot. He’s getting ready to move and he’s sad because today’s his last day at the shop. The cars are lined up and getting ready to be shipped off. End of an era for sure, but we had a hell of good run. Came close to being a storybook ending.”

A week from now, Pearn will be working full-time as crew chief on Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 19 Toyota, which Truex will drive.

Truex said he’s not concerned about the change in dynamics for him and Pearn as they transition to JGR after years spent out in Denver as part of a technical alliance with JGR.

“Especially with Cole leading the charge,” Truex said. “I know he can get the best out of everybody. That was really the key to our success. Him figuring out how to get most out of everyone, put the right people in the right places. It’s going to be hard to duplicate the cast of characters we had, there’s no question. If anyone can do it, it’s him.”

Truex said “there’s no reason for us to change” how they work and race in their new place of work.

“I think … the last couple of seasons we really played a lot of what they were doing and tried to stay on the same page as them,” Truex said of JGR. “As they were updating things and coming up with new ideas and new cars and all that stuff, we kind of stayed on the same page and took it our one little step further out there at Colorado. I think the mad scientist part of Cole is still there and he’ll still be a driving force in making those late changes. … It’s going to be new territory.”

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Ryan Blaney thankful for support after Daytona 500 incident

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Ryan Blaney said he didn’t want to talk to many people the night of the Daytona 500 after contact with Ryan Newman triggered Newman’s horrific last-lap crash.

But when Blaney got home, his parents were there.

“That was nice of them to be there,” Blaney said Friday at Auto Club Speedway, the first time he’s talked to the media about the Daytona 500 since that night.  

Blaney was ashen when he spoke briefly to the media after the season-opening Daytona 500. As he spoke, an ambulance drove by on the frontstretch, taking Newman to the hospital.

Blaney was intent on pushing Newman, a fellow Ford driver, to the victory when it became clear to Blaney he could not win the race. But as he pushed Newman coming to the finish, the contact unsettled Newman’s car and it turned right into the outside wall. Newman’s car went airborne and was slammed in the driver side area while upside down by Corey LaJoie.

Newman walked out of a Daytona Beach hospital two days later. Newman said last weekend in a statement that he suffered a head injury but did not disclose any details. He has since been to Roush Fenway Racing to see team members and also did a video for one of the team’s sponsors that day. Newman will not race this weekend, missing his second consecutive race but said in his statement he looks forward to racing again.

MORE: Ryan Blaney talks to Ryan Newman, looks forward to seeing him at track

Blaney said several people helped him in the aftermath of Newman’s accident. All that was known the night of the race was that Newman was in serious condition with a non-life-threatening injury.

Blaney said close friend Bubba Wallace spent time with him the day after the Daytona 500.

“We talked about some stuff,” Blaney said Friday of what he and Wallace did. “I stayed off social media and all that stuff. You have people that aren’t even involved and have never even watched the sport that have their own opinion on bad things.

“The outreach I got from the calls from former drivers and current drivers that week was pretty remarkable. Their support was good. Even though it is unintentional and it is racing, it still takes a toll on you when it is off of your nose. You never want to see anyone get hurt in this sport. We are all competitors, but we are also a big family.

“Ryan and I have gotten along really well and that was just a bad circumstance and it is great that it worked out for the best. It was nice to have the friends and family and drivers and teams (offer their) support. That really helped me out.”

Blaney cited a couple of former drivers whose calls were impactful.

Jeff Burton and Bobby Labonte called me, people that I looked up to a lot as a kid,” Blaney said. “It was neat that they called me and gave me their peace of mind. That was good.”

Friday also marked the first time for Blaney to speak publicly since last weekend’s race at Las Vegas. Blaney led but a late caution changed the race. He and Alex Bowman, running second, were among drivers who pitted. Joey Logano, running third, did not pit, inherited the lead and went on to win. Blaney finished 11th.

Blaney said Friday it took him 10 minutes to get over how that race ended.

“Yeah, it was over,” Blaney said. “Moving on. I went and stayed in a teepee and forgot about it.”

About his experience staying in a teepee, Blaney said:

“I already had that planned no matter what happened. I like camping. I was out on a ranch in the middle of the desert for a couple days and just hanging out and all that stuff. It was fun.”

As for what he did, Blaney said: “Go hiking a little bit. Cook by the fire. Clear your head. It is just relaxing. I have always kind of been that way. It was nice to get out there. I was out there. I had to be out there for Tuesday night anyway and figured I would stay somewhere other than the (Las Vegas) Strip. I can’t do the strip for very long. I wanted to stay somewhere opposite to the Strip.”

Alex Bowman fastest in final Cup practice at Auto Club Speedway

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Alex Bowman completed a sweep of Friday’s Cup Series practice sessions at Auto Club Speedway by posting the top speed in final practice. He was also fastest in first practice.

Bowman’s top speed was 176.626 mph. He recorded 32 laps in the session.

The top five was completed by Ryan Blaney (176.186 mph), Bubba Wallace (176.177), Kurt Busch (175.816) and Christopher Bell (175.695).

Bowman also had the best 10-lap average at 175.317 mph.

Kurt Busch recorded the most laps with 47.

The only incident in the session was defending race winner Kyle Busch brushing the wall in Turn 3 after his car got away from him on the bumps in the corner. Repairs were made to the car and Busch returned to the track with 17 minutes left in the session.

Click here for the speed chart.

 

Alex Bowman tops field in opening Cup practice at Auto Club

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Alex Bowman posted the fastest lap in opening Cup practice Friday at Auto Club Speedway. Bowman ran a top lap of 179.439 mph.

Bowman was followed by Kyle Larson (177.703 mph), Tyler Reddick (177.607), Kurt Busch (177.375) and Matt DiBenedetto (176.609).

Click here for full practice report

There were no incidents in the session.

Final Cup practice is scheduled from 5:35-6:25 p.m. ET today. Qualifying will be Saturday.

Xfinity practice report at Auto Club Speedway

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Harrison Burton was fastest in the final Xfinity Series practice session Friday at Auto Club Speedway.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver recorded 22 laps and posted a top speed of 174.474 mph in the 25-minute session.

The top five was completed by Noah Gragson (173.779 mph), Austin Cindric (173.775), Chase Briscoe (173.578) and Brandon Jones (173.578).

Burton also had the best 10-lap average at 170.422 mph.

Gragson recorded the most laps in the session with 25.

There were no incidents in the session.

Click here for the practice report.

First practice

Noah Gragson led the way for the Xfinity Series in the opening practice session that saw more than half the 50-minute period under caution at Auto Club Speedway

Gragson ran a top lap of 177.139 mph. He was followed by Austin Cindric (176.022), Daniel Hemric (175.400), Brandon Jones (175.366) and Harrison Burton (175.187).

Click here for full practice report

Alex Labbe brought out the caution when an oil line came loose and he put oil down on the track. The cleanup took about 20 minutes.

Tommy Joe Martins brought out the caution late in the session with smoke coming from the car and then a small fire in the right front of the car.