Truex and Furniture Row Racing on cusp of greatness

May 28, 2016; Concord, NC, USA; Sprint Cup Series driver Martin Truex Jr. (78) looks on during practice for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
May 28, 2016; Concord, NC, USA; Sprint Cup Series driver Martin Truex Jr. (78) looks on during practice for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports /

One car team adds second car for 2017 with hot shoe Erik Jones, who is in the hunt for the Xfinity championship this year.

At one time Furniture Row Racing was the little engine that couldn’t. They suffered from the growing pains most one-car teams usually go through, some falling by the wayside or being absorbed by those with deeper pockets. But FRR stuck with it and that patience has paid off in a big way.

The win by Martin Truex Jr. in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday shows just how far this team has come. It was the third victory of 2016, the first two locking them into the Chase, and the last one advancing them to the Round of 12 despite a failed inspection that will cost them only points and not the race.

NASCAR had instituted new sanctions that could take away a win if there was a serious infraction of the rules including the LIS laser inspection, however, reports have indicated that there was no “encumbered” finish so Truex keeps the W, although he could face a 10 point deduction. That decision could come Tuesday or Wednesday.

Not only is Furniture Row one of the few one-car teams to make its mark on the sport, they are very different in how they approach the season. Most teams are based in the Charlotte, North Carolina region, but FRR is based out of Denver, Colorado.

According to NASCAR, no team based west of the Mississippi River has ever won NASCAR’s most celebrated trophy. And in fact, until Furniture Row Racing’s championship bid, no one had even considered it a realistic possibility. But here they are and not only are things looking up for this season, the future is very bright for years to come.

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The team’s roots date back to 2005 with Jerry Robertson and Kenny Wallace splitting the team’s only two starts. A modest beginning and a few years of spotted events led to a full-time Sprint Cup schedule in 2010. Just one year later, Regan Smith gave FRR their first victory after capturing the Showtime Southern 500 at Darlington.

Respectability came slowly because Smith wasn’t a household name, but anyone who followed NASCAR knew there was something building out west. When Kurt Busch was released by Team Penske because he was pretty much a loose cannon on and off the track, it was a blessing for Furniture Row because they got a recognized name while Busch got his chance to repair his fractured image.

The older brother of Kyle Busch, Kurt got six starts for FRR in 2012 and got a top-10 in half of them. The following season he guided the No. 78 to 11 top-5s and 16 top-10s, including one pole. It was enough to get him a long-term deal with Stewart Haas Racing, but that left owner Barney Visser with an empty seat. Once again the racing gods were on his side because Martin Truex Jr. was a casualty of the cheating scandal that rocked Michael Waltrip Racing, eventually leading to the team’s demise.

Truex joined FRR although he didn’t have much success in the first year with just one top-5 and five top-10 finishes, but things began to click in 2015 with a win, eight top-5s and a whopping 22 top-10s. Now, through 27 events, it is the Chase plus advancing to the next round. While no one knows how things will play out going forward, there is more to the story than just wins and the Chase.

Truex signed a two-year extension in August to stay where he is until the end of 2018. At the same time FRR announced that Bass Pro Shops and Tracker Boats will increase its primary sponsorship schedule for Truex’s No. 77.

While that is huge news for a one-car team, Visser now has the luxury of adding a second car with the addition of hot shoe Erik Jones, who will pilot the No. 77 Toyota and will have 5-hour Energy aboard as the primary sponsor. The deal is for one year, but that could be extended should FRR get a Charter for 2017 which will ensure a starting berth in every event.

Jones is a rookie in the Xfinity series and fighting for the championship. He has already notched four wins and leads the Field of 12 as the Chase to the Xfinity Championship begins this weekend in Kentucky.

One thing that cannot be overlooked with the success of Furniture Row Racing is its partnership with Joe Gibbs Racing after switching from Chevrolet to Toyota for 2016. FRR gets a technical alliance with JGR including chassis built for them. Engines come from Toyota Racing Development.

So far it has been a perfect partnership.