NASCAR: On the eve of Furniture Row's final race Visser is sad but confident
By Kelly Crandall | RACER.com NASCAR correspondent
Emotions are aplenty for Furniture Row Racing team owner Barney Visser going into Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The No. 78 Toyota team will run its final Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race Sunday night. While doing so, Martin Truex Jr. will look to close out its tenure with a second consecutive championship.
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“From a team standpoint we’re going to try and not get too emotional,” Visser said in a Q&A. “We’re going to try and just execute. We don’t want to run our emotions up too high until the race is over. I think at the same time we have a strong chance of winning this thing. Mile-and-a-half tracks are our specialty.
“For me personally, my emotions are all over the board. I am sad not to be able to continue. I am going to miss the guys for sure, miss this whole thing. I don’t know what it’s going to feel like exactly when it’s over. And I don’t know what the emotions will be like when the Daytona 500 rolls around next year and we’re not in it. I just don’t know how emotional it will be. I am afraid it will be enormous. We’ll see, just have to live through it.”
With the loss of sponsor 5-hour ENERGY, Visser had to make the difficult decision to shut down his team when a replacement could not be found. Martin Truex Jr. and crew chief Cole Pearn are headed to Joe Gibbs Racing next year, and Visser said both would be a “huge asset” to that organization.
“Once things got far enough along there was no turning back,” Visser said of the decision. “Only way that could have not happened [was] if a sponsor brought us a big check. We hit the wall and had no choice. The guys needed time to find employment, and that’s why we announced our decision when we did. I told Martin to start looking around.
“Martin has been very good to us…always drove for less money than what other teams were paying and brought us a championship. I wish Martin and Cole all the best next year at Joe Gibbs Racing.”
Furniture Row celebrates the NASCAR Cup championship last season at Homestead (Image by Kinrade/LAT)
Visser said he doesn’t currently see himself being a part of an ownership group or owning a team again. He hopes to attend races, but this time to watch from grandstands.
The organization made its NASCAR debut in 2005 in what is now the Xfinity Series. From 2005 to 2006, the team had a total of 19 Xfinity starts with Jerry Robertson and no victories.
The team’s Cup Series debut came in September 2005 at Dover with Kenny Wallace. In 450 Cup starts, Visser’s team has earned 18 wins, and all but one has come from Truex; Regan Smith brought home the team’s first victory in the 2011 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. When the organization entered an alliance with JGR and switched to Toyota in 2016, the performance took a significant step forward.
Based out of Denver, Colorado, far from the NASCAR hub of Charlotte, Visser thought his group could be one of the elites.
“We knew we were building fast race cars and progressing in the right direction,” he said. “Regan won at Darlington, beating Carl Edwards to the finish. That showed everyone that we could build fast cars. Because of that we kept on attracting good people and eventually joined forces with Toyota and forged a successful technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing. The chips were starting to fall in the right place and our record of reaching the final four in three of the last four years is a pretty strong statement about the caliber of our team.”
Asked about the hardest part of shutting down, Visser said it would be saying goodbye to the people.
“To get this kind of group of guys pulled together is pretty special,” said Visser. “I feel it’s once-in-a-lifetime happening. However, I am fortunate that it has happened to me two other times — in my retail business and manufacturing business. It’s so rare to get a group of people you like being with, and who accomplish things that other people can’t seem to do. Pretty special to find that chemistry and the success that comes with it.
“It’s hard to give it up, but sometimes it’s taken away from you without having any recourse. I just couldn’t keep borrowing money over here to feed it over there. Just had to give it up.”
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