This is almost the equivalent of the New England Patriots folding or the New York Yankees relocating out of New York. On Tuesday, September 4, 2018, Furniture Row Racing, the team that won the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship, is shutting down just a year later…
NASCAR has had a lot of good things going lately in which IRP is renovating for a NASCAR comeback, Rockingham was bought and is interested in racing returning, Speedway Motorsports Inc. looking to buy the Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway, Chase Elliott getting a big marketable win. However, this was a hard-blow to NASCAR, how can a team like this suddenly fold despite losing a sponsor? Before everyone yells, “NASCAR is dying!!” Let’s discuss the reasons why this team shut down.
First off, Five Hour Energy is leaving the sport because of Monster Energy is the title sponsor. It’s just like when Cingular Wireless/AT&T left a few years of it being the NASCAR Nextel/Sprint Cup Series and Verizon not being allowed to show their logo’s on David Stremme’s cup car in 2009. It’s hard to compete with a competing brand when one is the title sponsor of the series. According to the Furniture Row GM Joe Garrone, he told the Denver Post.
Secondly, there is definitely something wrong with the money aspect of this sport. There is no way a team like this at this much success can suddenly not afford to race and shut down. According to a recent tweet from Adam Stern, Bass Pro Shops, who sponsors Truex for about half the season pays $10 Million annually. Another person tweeted that a friend told him to run the Xfinity race in February at Daytona with Jr Motorsports needs drivers to show up with $800,000 in sponsorship money! If this doesn’t show something is wrong with NASCAR’s current, unstable business model, I don’t know what does.
Now there are other aspects we need to play into this as well, for instance, Barney Visser, team owner, had a heart attack late in the season last year. He may see this as he winning the championship was great but now it’s time to retire. The team also has a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing dating back to when the team switched from Chevrolet to Toyota in 2016. This team out-ran four Gibbs cars and trust me, this made Joe Gibbs go, “How is Furniture Row running better than us?” Garone also told the Denver Post that coach Gibbs requested a “hefty raise for 2019.”. A tweet from October 18, 2013, from Marty Smith said that Kurt Busch said the “78 turned down sponsor opportunities because Visser wanted Furniture Row on the car if the 78 wins.” So in many cases, the cause can be pointed at both NASCAR and Furniture Row, but I am not looking for who to point a finger at, I am simply looking for WHY NASCAR’s best performing team is shutting down. If anything, NASCAR’s business system is not 100% to blame, it’s 50/50 on NASCAR and Furniture Row.
Now that we have examined why the team shut down, what happens from here? There are early reports of Martin Truex Jr, his crew chief Cole Pearn, and Bass Pro Shops all going to the #19 at Joe Gibbs Racing for 2019 and Daniel Suarez could go to the #95 at Leviane Family Racing in which rumors say they could switch to Toyota and have Gibbs technical support. The #95 is currently open for 2019 with the retirement of Kasey Kahne. Some think Truex could go to the 41, but I really believe Toyota will do anything to keep Truex, especially after winning the championship. Next, the #78 charter and what happens to it. There were discussions a week ago about GMS Racing buying out Furniture Row after losing the BK Racing bid. Perhaps still GMS could get a hold of it or maybe the Gaunt Brothers Racing team with the #96 Toyota.
In conclusion, it is very disappointing to see the defending champion team turn out this way. Yes NASCAR needs to figure out how to cut costs and make it cheaper for everyone. Also yes that Furniture Row could’ve made different moves, but in the end, it is what its. It’ll be interesting to see what will happen with the 78 charter and where Truex could end up in 2019.