Furniture Row Racing to cease operations after 2018 season

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Furniture Row Racing, the reigning Cup championship team, announced Tuesday it will cease operations after this season, citing a lack of necessary funding.

“I’ve always felt that we could be a competitive team and run for a championship even when it seemed like a pipe dream to many racing insiders,” car owner Barney Visser said in a statement. “But to be successful in any business you need to assemble the right people and make a strong commitment to succeed. We achieved what we set out to do and feel like we climbed Mount Everest. To continue with anything less than a competitive team would not be acceptable. It’s been one incredible ride.”

The announcement comes less than a month after car Visser issued a statement that “not fielding a team in 2019 is not an option and we have every intention of continuing to build on our success for years to come.”

The move also comes after primary sponsor 5-hour Energy announced in July that it would no longer remain in NASCAR after this season. 5-hour Energy is serving as co-primary sponsor of the team with Bass Pro Shops for 30 races this year. Furniture Row Racing was unable to find any income to replace what it would be losing.

“This is not good for anybody,” Visser said in a statement about closing the team down after this season. “The numbers just don’t add up. I would have to borrow money to continue as a competitive team and I’m not going to do that. This was obviously a painful decision to arrive at knowing how it will affect a number of quality and talented people.

“We’ve been aggressively seeking sponsorship to replace 5-hour ENERGY and to offset the rising costs of continuing a team alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing but haven’t had any success. I feel that it’s only proper to make the decision at this time to allow all team members to start seeking employment for next year. I strongly believe that all of our people have enhanced their careers by working at Furniture Row Racing.”

This announcement comes as Martin Truex Jr. is third in the points after winning his first series title last season.

Truex, who joined Furniture Row Racing in 2014 as the driver of the No. 78 car, said: “While I am saddened by today’s announcement, I totally understand the decision. Barney Visser, Joe Garone and the entire Furniture Row Racing team took me in while my career was in a bad place, and together we reached the pinnacle of the sport. I will forever be grateful to each and every one of them, and also to Furniture Row, Denver Mattress and the Visser family.

“But make no mistake this is not the immediate end. We still have unfinished business to attend to and that’s to give everything we have to successfully defend our Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship. Right now that is foremost on my mind as it is with the entire team.”

With Furniture Row Racing leaving after this season, it will have a charter to sell. That will be among the more valuable charters. Cup charters guarantee a starting spot in each race but also a set amount of money per race. One portion of the team payments is based on performance in the past three years. Furniture Row Racing has made the playoffs each of the past two years and will again make the playoff this season.

Furniture Row Racing, based in Denver, Colorado, started its NASCAR program in 2005 as an Xfinity team before moving to Cup. The team made its Cup debut in Nov. 13, 2005 at Phoenix with Jerry Robertson. He started 43rd and finished 41st, completing 51 laps.

The team’s first Cup victory was by Regan Smith in the 2011 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. The team has since scored 17 more wins with Truex, including victories this season at Auto Club Speedway, Pocono Raceway, Sonoma Raceway and Kentucky Speedway. Furniture Row Racing has won 12 of the last 59 Cup races (16.9 percent).

Others who drove for Furniture Row Racing included Erik Jones, Kurt Busch, Kenny Wallace, Joe Nemechek and Jimmy Spencer.

“There are so many people I want to thank because without them winning a championship and being competitive would never have happened: Joe Gibbs Racing for our technical alliance, Toyota and TRD (Toyota Racing Development), Bass Pro Shops, 5-hour ENERGY, Auto-Owners Insurance, Furniture Row and Denver Mattress,” Visser said in a statement from the team.

“A heartfelt thank you to Joe Garone, Martin Truex Jr, Cole Pearn and all of our team members for their talent, dedication and sacrifices they made along the way. To the Furniture Row and Denver Mattress employees I want to express a special thank you for always having my back from the early years of our race team to our championship run.

“I also want to thank the fans, the Denver community, NASCAR, International Speedway Corporation (ISC), Speedway Motorsports Inc. (SMI) and independent track owners for providing and maintaining the venues that we compete at. A special tip of the hat to the media and to NASCAR’s broadcast partners – FOX, NBC, Motor Racing Network (MRN), Performance Racing Network (PRN) and SiriusXM Radio. We’ve always been treated fairly by members of the media and I appreciate their hard work in one of the most demanding schedules in major league sports.”

NASCAR issued a statement Tuesday: “NASCAR wishes the very best to Barney Visser and his family. Barney has been a successful owner and an amazing champion, and his presence will certainly be missed. We look forward to seeing Martin Truex Jr., Cole Pearn and the entire No. 78 team finish the 2018 season strong and competing for another championship. NASCAR will continue to work on growing the sport and working with the race teams on competitive and operational excellence. Much of those efforts have already been put in place, and will continue to be a focus.”

Car owner Joe Gibbs, whose team is aligned with Furniture Row Racing, said in a statement: “We have a great partnership with Barney and everyone at Furniture Row Racing. It’s unfortunate that they will not be continuing after this season and I know it was a difficult decision for them. They have accomplished so much and I know they would like nothing more than to win another championship this season.”

In a statement, Laura Pierce, General Manager for Motorsports, Toyota Motor North America (TMNA) said: “We want to thank Barney Visser, Joe Garone, Martin, Cole and everyone at Furniture Row Racing for a successful partnership over the past few years. The team’s dedication and hard work in the sport was instrumental to our racing family as they helped us win our first NASCAR Cup Series manufacturer’s championships as well as reach the pinnacle of the sport with last year’s championship. We look forward to continuing to work with the Furniture Row Racing team as they defend their championship in the upcoming playoffs.”

Chase Elliott gives Hendrick Motorsports 250th Cup win

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Chase Elliott held off Martin Truex Jr. at Watkins Glen International Sunday and scored the 250th win for Hendrick Motorsports.

In addition to those wins, Hendrick owns 12 Cup titles.

Seventeen drivers have gone to Victory Lane for Rick Hendrick since Geoff Bodine first did it at Martinsville in 1984.

“On behalf of everyone at Chevrolet, I am extremely pleased to congratulate Rick and the entire Hendrick Motorsports family on this tremendous accomplishment of 250 race wins in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet’s U.S. vice president of performance vehicles and motorsports in statement. “This major milestone is the result of years of passion, persistence, and teamwork to get the job done. We are especially proud of the fact that all 250 wins have been in Chevrolet race cars. Rick’s passion for the brand and dedication to putting Chevrolet in Victory Lane has been relentless. As a key partner and respected friend, we salute you.”

Here’s the complete list of Hendrick Cup winners.

Driver           Wins
Jeff Gordon    93
Jimmie Johnson    83
Terry Labonte    12
Dale Earnhardt Jr.    9
Darrell Waltrip    9
Tim Richmond    9
Geoff Bodine    7
Kasey Kahne    6
Mark Martin    5
Kyle Busch    4
Ken Schrader    4
Ricky Rudd    4
Casey Mears    1
Brian Vickers    1
Joe Nemechek    1
Jerry Nadeau    1
Chase Elliott 1

Noah Gragson wins Truck pole at Kentucky

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Noah Gragson beat teammate Todd Gilliland by .119 seconds and will lead the Buckle Up in Your Truck 225 field to green tonight at Kentucky Speedway.

His lap of 183.955 mph set a track record, bettering the mark set by William Byron in 2016. Three drivers posted a speed above the old record.

Gilliland’s lap of 183.212 mph was good enough for second on the grid, followed by Ben Rhodes (183.200 mph) in third.

Chris Eggleston (182.914) and Grant Enfinger (182.568) rounded out the top five.

Gragson also had the fastest lap in round one with a speed of 183.655 mph.

Myatt Snider got loose in Turn 4 and slammed the wall hard. He rolled out a backup truck and will have to start shotgun on the field.

Joe Nemechek and Timmy Hill were the two drivers who failed to qualify.

Click here for the complete lineup.

Practice holds for Charlotte Motor Speedway

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CONCORD, North Carolina — Ten Cup teams will serve practice holds today at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The teams of Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Matt DiBenedetto, AJ Allmendinger and Kasey Kahne will sit out 15 minutes of the first practice for failing pre-race inspection twice at Kansas Speedway.

Austin Dillon, Kevin Harvick, Daniel Suarez, David Ragan and Jimmie Johnson will sit out 15 minutes in the first practice for failing inspection twice last week at the All-Star Race.

Ross Chastain will sit out 15 minutes for missing the rookie meeting.

In the Xfinity Series, 10 teams will also receive practice holds stemming from the series May 5 race at Dover.

Chastain, Chad Finchum, Josh Bilicki and Brandon Hightower will have 15 minute holds for getting out of the garage late.

Michael Annett, Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell, Cole Custer, Joe Nemechek and David Starr will have 15 minute holds for failing inspection two times.

Brandon Jones wins pole for Dover Xfinity race

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Brandon Jones qualified first for Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Dover International Speedway, earning his second career pole.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver earned the pole with a speed of 155.831 mph. He will be joined on the front row by teammate Noah Gragson (155.629 mph).

“We need XYO (Networks) on the car more often, best-career finish last week with them on the car and now a pole,” Jones told Fox Sports 1. “This is a driver’s track, too. I got a pole last year at Daytona and we all know how that place is. To be able to have raw speed here that’s pretty awesome.”

JGR swept the front row for the 52nd time.

The top five is completed by Matt Tifft, Elliott Sadler and Daniel Hemric.

Jones and Sadler are two of the four Dash 4 Cash drivers. The other two are Justin Allgaier (sixth) and Ryan Sieg (13th).

Johnny Sauter, driving in place of the suspended Spencer Gallagher, qualified 11th.

Nine cars did not make a lap in Round 1 after they failed to get through inspection in time.

David Starr, Cody Ware, Christopher Bell, Michael Annett, Cole Custer, Joe Nemechek, John Hunter Nemechek, Tyler Reddick and Stephen Leicht did not make laps.

Ware did not make the race.

Click here for qualifying results.