In a stunning announcement Tuesday, the NASCAR Cup Series team of defending champion Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing, said it’s shutting down at the end of the 2018 season.
It is the latest development among the many struggles of the sport and teams to maintain sponsors, following 5-hour ENERGY’s announcement in July that it will no longer be the No. 78 Toyota team’s sponsor.
So what does all this mean for the defending champ and his top-caliber crew chief, Cole Pearn?
At the very least, they just became the biggest free agents on the market with the team’s third-place position in the series standings going into Sunday’s regular season finale at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Driver-turned-broadcaster Dale Earnhardt Jr. chimed in on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Wednesday to react to the news from the Denver-based team.
“I think we’re all real sad to see that happen because their success story is incredible, and for this to be the bookend to that is unfortunate, extremely unfortunate. But their business model was a unique one in the fact that Barney himself footed the bill for his team for many, many years. As they got more successful and more competitive, the costs go up. … The rising costs for them to continue to compete is more than Barney’s willing to invest.”
Junior and Truex go way back as friends, with Earnhardt helping launch his buddy’s career. Earnhardt knows what Truex and Pearn – who have four wins together this season – are capable of separately and together, and he predicted where he thinks they’ll end up.
More via SiriusXM NASCAR Radio:
“I’ll predict they’ll both stick together and they’ll end up in the 19, more than likely. So I think they both complement each other, and I believe that Martin Truex Jr. is as good as anybody in the series. But without a great crew chief, no driver is going to be as competitive as they could be and reach their potential. So they both complement each other, and I think they’re a good package.”
Earnhardt’s prediction the Truex will jump to Joe Gibbs Racing – which had a partnership with Furniture Row Racing – would lead a shift for Daniel Suárez, the current driver of the No. 19 Toyota.
Speaking like this move is a done deal when nothing has officially been announced, Dale Jr. continued to explain, via NASCAR.com:
“It’s definitely going to move a lot of things around on the competition side with Truex and Cole Pearn going to Gibbs,” Earnhardt told SiriusXM. “It’ll be interesting to see where Daniel ends up, and where Daniel goes moves another domino and so forth. I think that this’ll be one of the most interesting offseasons or silly seasons that we’ve had in many, many years. Seems like there’s a piece of news or new domino falling every single day, and it’ll be interesting to see what happens through the rest of the year.”
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