Joe Garone

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Furniture Row Racing owner Barney Visser thanks fans

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Furniture Row Racing owner Barney Visser issued a note to fans, thanking them for their support.

Furniture Row Racing, which won the 2017 Cup title with Martin Truex Jr., ceased operations after the 2018 season because of lack of sponsorship. Truex and crew chief, Cole Pearn, along with other crew members, have moved to Joe Gibbs Racing to the No. 19 team.

As for Visser, he shares some more info in this note to fans:

Dear Race Fan,

First, I want to express a sincere thank you for the passionate support given to Furniture Row Racing during our storied career in NASCAR. It was an incredible ride and we are proud to be known as a NASCAR Cup Series champion. 

Along with the enjoyment of being a competitive team on the racetrack, we also enjoyed a great deal of satisfaction partnering with renowned Denver-based neurosurgeon, Dr. Scott Falci, and his adaptive motorsports program. The Falci Adaptive Biosystems Program and its cutting-edge technology is designed to bring mobility to paraplegic, quadriplegic and disabled individuals.

Furniture Row Racing, Furniture Row and Denver Mattress provided the adaptive Toyota race car the past four years. Dr. Falci and his team built and installed the highly sophisticated technological components that allow the spinal cord injured to drive the race car with its’ special hand controls linked to the accelerator and braking. In addition to the hand controls the car can be driven hands and foot free, with technology that allows movement of the occupant’s head to be detected and input into the vehicles steering, accelerator, and brake systems (see video) 

While the race car will continue to be provided by Furniture Row and Denver Mattress, I will not be personally involved. I am proud to announce that this inspirational program will have more assets to expand under the executive leadership of Joe Garone, who was the architect of building Furniture Row Racing to a championship level as the team’s president. 

Joe will work with Charlotte-based Spire Sports & Entertainment and Dr. Falci to grow the program’s fundraising and awareness efforts. 

Joe and Spire are currently seeking sponsorship for a number of special events to showcase the adaptive race car technology prior to a NASCAR Cup Series weekend. The events will include spinal cord injured individuals driving the adaptive car along with a NASCAR Cup Series driver, who will offer assistance and advice plus give a thrilling, high-speed ride to the participants. 

For a better understanding of an adaptive motorsports event please see video below, which includes former NHRA champion Darrell Gwynn driving the adaptive race car with only head movements. 

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.”

5-hour Energy to end NASCAR involvement at end of season

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Furniture Row Racing announced Wednesday that it is seeking sponsorship of the No. 78 car for next season with the announcement that 5-hour Energy will not return after this year.

5-hour Energy became the major co-primary sponsor this season on the No. 78 team with Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats for 30 Cup races. 5-hour Energy joined Furniture Row Racing in 2017, serving as a majority primary sponsor on the No. 77 car with Erik Jones.

Wednesday’s announcement comes just days after reigning series champion Martin Truex Jr. won at Kentucky Speedway for his fourth Cup win of the year.

5-hour Energy has been a primary sponsor in NASCAR for nearly a decade, including the seven in Cup.

Rise’ Meguiar, President of Sales for Living Essentials, parent company of 5-hour ENERGY, issued a statement on the business decision.

“Since joining Furniture Row Racing in 2017, the team has delivered on every promise. In addition to being a championship team, winning races and putting 5-hour ENERGY in victory lane multiple times, they have also become part of our family.  We cannot thank Barney Visser, Joe Garone, Martin and the entire Furniture Row Racing team enough for the pride they have given us.  They are a first-class group on and off the track.  Although 5-hour ENERGY has made the business decision to leave NASCAR, we will be fans and friends for life, and we look forward to finishing strong in 2018.”

Said Joe Garone, president of Furniture Row Racing, in a statement:

“I want to first send a sincere thank you to everyone at 5-hour Energy for being an excellent and loyal partner. The way 5-hour Energy has activated its programs over the years demonstrated a commitment and creativity as a NASCAR race team sponsor. We understand that companies do change business strategies, but friendships last forever and that’s how we feel about 5-hour Energy.”

“Being a perennial championship contending team with a talented driver in Martin, Furniture Row Racing continues to be committed in offering a new sponsor not only success on the racetrack but also the benefit of a strong marketing platform with our powerful team of partners – Bass Pro Shops, Auto-Owners Insurance, Toyota, Furniture Row and Denver Mattress.”

This decision by 5-hour Energy comes as Truex’s contract with Furniture Row Racing ends after this season. He was asked last weekend at Kentucky about where things stood with a new contract.

“We’ve got some stuff to figure out, for sure,” Truex said. “I don’t plan on doing anything different. Just give the team some time to figure things out. We’re all kind of trying to figure it all out together so we can make it happen.”

So what needed to be figured out?

“Just sponsorship commitments and all the stuff that goes along with that,” Truex said. “Figuring out how much money we have to spend, when do we get it, how much are we getting and where can we spend it. Just trying to figure out all the details honestly. There’s a lot of puzzle pieces to be put together that we haven’t finished yet. Honestly, we haven’t been in a big hurry to get it done. In due time.”

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Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing earn Colorado Sportsperson, Team of the Year honors

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Martin Truex Jr. continues to rack up the honors.

The defending NASCAR Cup champion was named Friday as the 2017 Colorado Sportsperson of the Year by Mile High Sports magazine.

Truex’s photo is on the cover of the current Mile High Sports. He was also named Colorado’s “Fan Favorite” Athlete of the year in a fan vote on the magazine’s website, MileHighSports.com.

In addition, the magazine named Furniture Row Racing as Colorado Team of the Year. FRR president Joe Garone was a finalist for the magazine’s Executive of the Year.

“What Martin Truex Jr. and Furniture Row Racing did this year was not only unprecedented for the team and the state, but it was hands down the best sports story of the year,” Mile High Sports magazine editor-in-chief Doug Ottewill said in a media release. “What he had to go through personally, what the team had to overcome along the way – all of it made our choice for Sportsperson of the Year an easy one.

“This is our highest honor – the big one, the one that the likes of John Elway, Peyton Manning, Missy Franklin and Chauncey Billups have won – and it thrills me to be able to add Martin Truex Jr. to that list.”

Driver of the No. 78 FRR Toyota Camry, Truex earned a NASCAR Cup series-high eight wins, capped off with a win in the season-ending and championship-deciding race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

He also led virtually every major statistical category.

“Individual honors in a team sport are a result of the people you are surrounded with,” Truex said in a statement. “I feel blessed to be part of an outstanding organization led by our owner Barney Visser, team president Joe Garone and crew chief Cole Pearn.

“These honors represent the hard work by the talented individuals at our Denver race shop. I want to thank Mile High Sports and all our passionate Colorado race fans for the support they have given our team through the years.”

Furniture Row Racing, which calls the Denver, Colorado area home, is the only active NASCAR Cup team based west of the Mississippi River and 1,500 miles from the Charlotte, North Carolina area, where most NASCAR teams are based.

“I guess we have heard ’that’s impossible, you will never do that’ for the last time,” Visser said in a statement. “We are very proud of our Denver roots and to receive these prestigious awards in our home state makes it even more special.

“The Colorado fans have been loyal followers of our team and we are honored to bring a major championship to the state.”

The Colorado honors add to an already lengthy list of awards that Truex, Pearn and Furniture Row Racing have earned, including:

* Truex was recently named New Jersey Sportsperson of the Year.

* For the second consecutive year, Truex was named Eastern Motorsport Press Association Al Holbert Memorial National Driver of the Year.

* AutoWeek magazine named Truex Driver of the Year and Furniture Row Racing was named Team of the Year.

* NASCAR.com named Truex Driver of the Year, Pearn was named Crew Chief of the Year and Furniture Row Racing was named Team of the Year. Truex and longtime partner Sherry Pollex were also awarded Best Moment Off The Track.

* Truex and Pollex were awarded the National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) Myers Brothers Award.

Long: Tears turn to cheers for Furniture Row Racing

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KANSAS CITY, Kansas — Among his final acts alive, James “Jim” Watson texted his wife Saturday night and told her what a great time he was having with his Furniture Row Racing teammates at a local go-kart track.

Soon after, the 55-year-old father suffered a fatal heart attack.

“I take a little bit of solace in that he was happy in his last moments,’’ said a misty-eyed Cole Pearn after Martin Truex Jr. rallied to win Sunday’s Cup race at Kansas Speedway.

Pearn was on the way to the hospital Saturday night when he was told Watson died. The team later gathered at their hotel to grieve.

“We just all looked at each other and shed some tears and some hugs,’’ Pearn told NBC Sports.

No Cup team has faced so much personal adversity in such a public way this year as Furniture Row Racing. Its greatest season on the track has been offset by tragedy and tribulation.

Truex’s longtime girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, had surgery in July for a recurrence of cancer. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in August 2014 and announced she was cancer-free in January 2016. Her ovarian cancer returned this summer. Truex won at Kentucky Speedway and brought her home from the hospital the next day. Her chemo treatments continue.

After the Kentucky race, Pearn’s closest childhood friend suddenly died after he caught a bacterial infection from a cut. Truex won that weekend at Watkins Glen to cap what Pearn called then “the hardest week of my life.’’

After Truex won at Charlotte two weeks ago, Pearn said “my wife and I put our dog down … that we’ve had for 13 years.

“It’s just like, man, I don’t know if regular life is supposed to be like this.’’

Then came Saturday night.

Watson had been with the team since February, joining as a fabricator, who worked on both the cars of Truex and Erik Jones. Watson was a longtime racer from Wisconsin.

“James was a friend to everybody,’’ said Joe Garone, president of Furniture Row Racing. “It’s hard to talk about.’’

Truex said both teams helped each other work through the pain while preparing for the race Sunday morning. Truex’s seventh victory of the season continued his dominance and is the most wins by a Cup driver in a season since Matt Kenseth won seven races in 2013.

Pearn called it “kind of overwhelming” to see Truex cross under the checkered flag ahead of the field less than 24 hours after Watson’s death. 

“I was doing OK and then I started seeing the faces on other guys,’’ Pearn told NBC Sports. “It just hits you like a ton of bricks.’’

When Truex won in the past, it had just been the No. 78 crew that gathered in Victory Lane. Sunday, the No. 77 crew also joined Truex’s team to celebrate a win and a life.

“Chris (Gayle) and I came to it … that if either one of us were fortunate enough to win, we’d both go to Victory Lane because Jim worked on both of our cars and was a part of both of our teams,’’ Pearn said of the crew chief for the No. 77 team.

It proved a fitting honor for Watson.

“He always wanted when we won to celebrate as a group,’’ Pearn said. “I just couldn’t think of any better way to pay tribute to him and know that he would have been happy with that call.’’