Already sort of, kind of teammates, two of NASCAR’s Big 3 could be the legitimate kind next season and cause a big headache for the opposition.
The drama over where Martin Truex Jr. and crew chief Cole Pearn might land after the announcement that Furniture Row Racing was shutting its doors after the 2018 NASCAR season didn’t last long.
Though unconfirmed by the team, Motorsport is reporting that both Truex and Pearn will move to the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota for 2019, bringing sponsor Bass Pro Shops with them. The site’s source says the arrangement was “already in place by the time of Furniture Row’s official announcement on Tuesday.”
Furniture Row Racing already served as a kind of de facto offshoot of JGR, as the two teams had a technical alliance and shared some information with each other. That said, Truex and Pearn will now be officially under the team’s umbrella, and there will certainly be some advantages from working out of the same garage as the other drivers instead of from the Denver home of Furniture Row.
Indeed, the 2019 driver lineup for Joe Gibbs Racing is an intimidating one. While Stewart-Haas Racing could claim to be the best overall team in the NASCAR Cup Series this year, that mantle should switch with both Kyle Busch and Truex as teammates. Add in Erik Jones, who won his first Cup Series race this year, and still dangerous Denny Hamlin and it’s hard to imagine any multi-car team winning more races.
The odd man out is Daniel Suarez, who apparently will be given the boot from the 19 after just two seasons. It’s ironic to note that the very twist of fate that gave him a Cup Series opportunity — the sudden retirement of Carl Edwards before the 2017 NASCAR season, which caused JGR to hastily move Suarez up from the XFINITY Series — may now end up leaving a bitter taste in his mouth. It seems that even though it took two years, Edwards leaving may now benefit Truex more than Suarez.
Yet the 26-year-old may still land on his feet. There continue to be rumors that Leavine Family Racing, which is losing Kasey Kahne to retirement and is supposedly contemplating a manufacturer change from Chevrolet to Toyota, could put Suarez in its 95 car. It would then forge the same kind of deal that Furniture Row Racing had with JGR, albeit without anything near the same kind of championship pedigree.
That would be a step down for Suarez, at least in the short term, but it would make for at least a somewhat happy ending for most of the principals involved in this kind of shuffle .In the meantime, every other team will be thinking about how to handle a Joe Gibbs Racing lineup that is adding a Cup Series champion to the one it already has.