DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The story of Furniture Row Racing’s unfortunate demise was well told last season.
Lesser known is that it nearly happened three years earlier.
Martin Truex Jr. revealed Wednesday during Daytona 500 Media Day that the No. 78 was close to implosion after the 2015 season before securing the necessary funding that enabled the Denver-based team to last three more seasons.
“It wasn’t really reported on a lot that there was almost a chance we were going out of business before” the end of 2018, Truex said. “It wasn’t really talked about. It was kind of behind the scenes. And I had to go out and find sponsors. I had to do this and that to get paid.”
Truex’s primary sponsor for virtually the entirety of the 2014-15 seasons was Furniture Row, the company also owned by car owner Barney Visser.
In 2016, Bass Pro Shops (which followed Truex to Joe Gibbs Racing this year) and Auto Owners Insurance picked up nearly half the season, and a switch to Toyota also injected millions. In ’17, Furniture Row peaked in sponsorship (with the addition of Bass Pro and a second car for Erik Jones with 5-hour Energy).
Last year, Furniture Row was entirely off the No. 78 as a sponsor, and when the impending departure of 5-hour Energy left an eight-figure hole in the team’s budget, Visser shut down the team.
Truex since has replaced Daniel Suarez in the No. 19 Camry at JGR and said “there’s a lot less worry for me on the team side worrying about what their future is and how are things going.
“The stability of where I’m at now is clearly a lot different,” Truex said. “It’s there, which is important. It makes it easier to focus on racing and not have to worry about all the other stuff. I’m excited about it. It’s an awesome opportunity. Great organization and great people. At the same time, I have to get the job done. A lot of pressure on me to perform and hopefully I can deliver.”
Because JGR and Furniture Row had worked together as Toyota teams the past three seasons, Truex said the transition is relatively seamless compared with his past career shifts from Dale Earnhardt Inc. to Michael Waltrip Racing and MWR to Furniture Row.
Crew chief Cole Pearn now can attend competition meetings at the JGR headquarters in Huntersville, North Carolina, that he once conferenced in remotely from Denver.
“I would say that it was a lot easier,” Truex said about the move. “A lot less unknowns. Less nervous about it just because I know things. I talk about simple things like I know what their brakes are like. I know what their throttle pedal feels like. I know what kind of steering they run. When I’ve switched teams before it’s like starting over a lot of times.
“When I went from DEI to MWR it was like completely starting over. All new people. All different parts and pieces. All new equipment. Everything felt different. The approach was different. That’s where you kind of have that anxiety of how’s this really going to be. I think it’s going to be good, but I don’t know. There’s so many questions when you switch teams like that. For this transition for me, it was a lot easier because we worked so closely together the past couple of years.
“We’ve essentially built our cars together. We used all the same stuff – parts and pieces, engines, you name it. I’m familiar with all that. I’m familiar with their process. The way they do things. The way they work together. The way their meetings are. You name it, it’s a comfortable change. For me, it’s been as easy as it’s ever been to switch teams like this year.”