Sprint Cup team preview: Furniture Row Racing
January 26, 2014, Zack Albert, NASCAR.com
-- The Colorado-based organization is fresh off the most successful season in its big-league NASCAR existence, with Kurt Busch steering the single-car team to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup for the first time in 2013.
-- With Busch on the move to Stewart-Haas Racing for 2014, Furniture Row landed on its feet with the best available driver on the free-agent market in Martin Truex Jr. The ninth-year driver was the odd man out of the Chase in the wake of last year's Michael Waltrip Racing cheating scandal, a disaster that prompted NAPA -- Truex's main sponsor -- to end its long-running association with MWR.
-- The Barney Visser-owned team continues to reap benefits from a technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing, which treats the No. 78 Chevrolet as an unofficial fourth team. Furniture Row and Childress announced an extension to their partnership last September, meaning the two will continue to share technology, engineering and research and development information.
2014 Driver Lineup
Martin Truex Jr., No. 78 Chevrolet.
To say 2014 represents a clean slate for Truex is almost an understatement. Before last season's pivotal regular-season finale at Richmond International Raceway, Truex had enjoyed a sort of career rejuvenation -- a victory at Sonoma Raceway in June ended a 218-race winless skid and gave him the inside line to at least a Wild Card berth in the playoffs. But after his MWR mates were found to have manipulated the race results to put Truex in the Chase, NASCAR issued heavy penalties to the Waltrip organization and removed Truex from the postseason field.
NAPA's departure was one of the most damaging blows in the fallout. Waltrip told Truex he was free to look elsewhere for employment; shortly thereafter, the sponsorship void forced MWR to shift from a three-car operation to a two-car team with a part-time third entry for research and development.
Though Furniture Row tried to keep Busch, it was unlikely the pairing was made for the long term. Enter Truex, a two-time winner in Sprint Cup competition with a point to prove after his removal from last year's Chase.
The No. 78 car was a perennial force at the top of practice and qualifying charts last season, though Busch was unable to break through to Victory Lane. Busch, even on his way out, embraced the underdog story of the little team from Denver that could. If the Furniture Row pit crew can sort out the issues that occasionally hampered Busch at key moments in 2013, then Truex may be able to write his own Cinderella story. The team's success may also depend on the efforts of partner RCR, facing its first major offseason driver shakeup after two years of relative stability.