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Champion Martin Truex Jr. on the market for 2019

Defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. will race elsewhere in 2019.

Truex, a four-time winner this year, is in his fifth season with Furniture Row Racing. The Denver, Colorado-based team announced Tuesday that it will cease operations at the end of the 2018 NASCAR season.

Truex, 38, has four wins and four Busch Pole Awards this year for Furniture Row, which operates in partnership with Joe Gibbs Racing. His performance has placed him among the Big 3 championship contenders, alongside other series front-runners Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing and Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing.

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He and crew chief Cole Pearn have emerged as one of the best driver-crew chief pairings in the garage, and the driver is in the prime of his career.

Truex brought Furniture Row’s No. 78 Toyota its first Monster Energy Series championship last season. The organization began racing operations in 2005.

“I’ve always felt that we could be a competitive team and run for a championship even when it seemed like a pipe dream to many racing insiders,” team owner Barney Visser said in a release provided by the organization. “But to be successful in any business you need to assemble the right people and make a strong commitment to succeed. We achieved what we set out to do and feel like we climbed Mount Everest. To continue with anything less than a competitive team would not be acceptable. It’s been one incredible ride.”

Truex indicated Aug. 17 at Bristol Motor Speedway that his future with Furniture Row was uncertain, saying, “I’m starting to hear rumors. That’s kind of how it works in this sport, I’ve been in this position before.” All but two of his 19 Monster Energy Series wins have come with Furniture Row and Visser.

“Barney Visser, Joe Garone and the entire Furniture Row Racing team took me in while my career was in a bad place, and together we reached the pinnacle of the sport,” Truex Jr. said. “I will forever be grateful to each and every one of them, and also to Furniture Row, Denver Mattress and the Visser family.

“But make no mistake this is not the immediate end. We still have unfinished business to attend to and that’s to give everything we have to successfully defend our Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship. Right now that is foremost on my mind as it is with the entire team.”

Truex marched to his first title in NASCAR’s top division in 2017 by winning eight races, including the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He is also a two-time champion in what is now called the Xfinity Series, going back-to-back in 2004-05.

“NASCAR wishes the very best to Barney Visser and his family,” a NASCAR statement read. “Barney has been a successful owner and an amazing champion, and his presence will certainly be missed. We look forward to seeing Martin Truex Jr., Cole Pearn and the entire No. 78 team finish the 2018 season strong and competing for another championship. NASCAR will continue to work on growing the sport and working with the race teams on competitive and operational excellence. Much of those efforts have already been put in place, and will continue to be a focus.”