It’s official: Furniture Row Racing will field Toyotas next season in the Sprint Cup Series, ending a long-term relationship with Chevrolet.
Officials from the Denver, Colorado-based team joined Toyota representatives in making the announcement on Sunday morning at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where it was also formally announced that driver Martin Truex Jr. has re-signed with Furniture Row for the 2016 season.
“The toughest part of this sport is when contract time comes up, especially when you’re in a good situation and you want to keep it going, and there’s people out there trying to take your job and get in your car and all that kind of thing,” said Truex, who made the 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup and has enjoyed a career season with 17 top-10 finishes including a win at Pocono in June.
“These days, ‘Silly Season’ in this sport gets absolutely crazy and it’s not really any fun, to be honest with you, so I’m just glad I was able to get it out of the way fairly early and focus on the Chase and focus on next year. We’ve got a lot of things we need to get done, and we certainly don’t need distractions.”
Furniture Row will continue with Chevrolet — the manufacturer it first aligned with in 2005 — for the remainder of the 2015 season.
“We thank Furniture Row Racing for all of the team’s hard work and accomplishments over the past decade, and we wish (team owner) Barney Visser and his organization continued success with their future endeavors,” Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. Vice President, Performance Vehicles and Motorsports said in a statement.
As part of the move to Toyota, the single-car Furniture Row organization will enter into a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota’s flagship organization and the only other major Toyota organization scheduled to compete in the Sprint Cup Series in 2016.
JGR founder and owner Joe Gibbs expects his organization to benefit from the alliance with Furniture Row, just as Furniture Row will inevitably benefit from being aligned with JGR — an organization with far more resources and personnel.
“I think what they bring is another crew chief to help solve problems, and he’s obviously very, very good,” Gibbs said of Truex’s first-year crew chief, Cole Pearn. “And then you’ve got a driver that’s performing extremely well. … I think by adding Martin there and Cole, I think it will strengthen us, too. I think it will be something where we work together, and we all know the (Toyota) engineering groups share a lot of things and try and solve problems, and at the racetrack you’re trying to solve problems, and I think that’s kind of what this sport’s all about.”
Joe Garone, Furniture Row’s president and general manager, said team officials felt now was the right time to switch to Toyota despite the team enjoying its best season ever with Chevrolet.
“I look at it as almost being landlocked where we’re at, and when the timing’s right and the stars line up, you have to take advantage of those opportunities, and it may look like the wrong time, but I think after we punched through a season and get things right longterm, this is when it has to be,” Garone said.
With Michael Waltrip Racing ceasing operations at season’s end, the addition of Furniture Row gives Toyota a second competitive team for 2016, along with JGR.
“They clearly bring some very smart, capable people to the table, and that relationship, the sharing, the communication we’re going to be able to leverage between all of our organizations will definitely improve the Toyota family,” said David Wilson, Toyota Racing Development, U.S.A. president and general manager.
Unlike with Toyota, where Furniture Row will be one of just two major NASCAR organizations, the company has been a small fish in a big pond with Chevrolet — which is aligned with Hendrick Motorsports, Stewart-Haas Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates and other multi-car operations.
“As far as the overall, we were way down on the list with Chevrolet,” Garone said. “And there was really no possibility of getting any higher, and that’s no fault of Chevrolet at all. It’s just big. We came on the scene and all those other teams were in place, and to think that you’re ever going to get above them just is probably not going to happen. That would be our initial reason years ago of why we were thinking our next step we’re going to have to look at a different path to expand our team.”