TRUEX, FURNITURE ROW HAVING SUPER SEASON
Truex, Furniture Row Racing having super season
Canadian crew chief Cole Pearn, the 30something who calls the shots for driver Martin Truex Jr. and the No. 78 Toyota, was interrupted Wednesday at Furniture Row Racing’s northeast Denver shop. Busy preparing for Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis, Pearn was asked about how the most unusual team in American motorsports is handling being the best in the business — how the No. 78 has statistically dominated the Cup series through 19-of-26 regular-season races.
Pearn chuckled at the question before giving the honest answer it deserves.
“I think you can look back and be proud of what you’ve accomplished, but it’s a matter of sticking to your guns and, you know, continue to do what’s made you successful so far,” he said.
Translation: The No. 78 won’t celebrate its magnificent season until Truex wins the championship.
But it’s true. That little team from Denver already has become a giant in the Southeastbased sport. The only team based outside the Carolinas has built Truex a fleet of cars that typically practices, qualifies and races among the top five every week.
Truex, who is tied with defending champion Jimmie Johnson with a series-most three race victories, is the leader in 10 other major categories: driver points (758), playoff bonus points (29), stage wins (14), stage points (250), laps led (1,252), miles led (1,700.12), fastest laps (702), average starting position (7.5), average running position (8.1) and driver ranking (112.6).
Truex, 37, won four races last year and one in 2015, when he finished fourth in the standings. Eight of his 10 career victories have come in the last 2½ seasons with the No. 78, qualifying for the playoffs for the third consecutive year.
“It’s a product of our group,” Pearn said of the team’s success. “We look at the areas where you weren’t as good as you needed to be and you continue to try to improve. This season has just been the product of continued improvement on the success we’ve had. It’s been good so far, for sure.”
FRR owner Barney Visser of Cherry Hills was laughed at when he unveiled plans in 2005 to base a team in Denver and compete in the world’s premier stock car series. Now, he’s bound to end up in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Visser is funding a second FRR car this year, the No. 77 driven by rookie Erik Jones, and his racing empire will undoubtedly continue to grow — despite Jones’ decision to sign with Joe Gibbs Racing for 2018 and beyond.
FRR and four-car JGR have a technical alliance, but Truex — and sometimes Jones, who is 17th in points — have regularly outperformed FRR’s more muscular stepbrother. North Carolina-based JGR produced its first win of the season last Sunday, with Denny Hamlin taking the checkered flag at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Kyle Busch of JGR is winless, and so are teammates Matt Kenseth and Danial Suarez.
“I know the 18 (Busch) doesn’t have any wins, but they’ve been one of the fastest cars most of the year,” Pearn said of Busch, who is third in the standings. “I’m sure that’s going to tip at any point. We have access to all the same information, more or less. It’s just a matter of who does what with it.”
In addition to Truex’s three wins, his 14 stage wins and 29 bonus points will help him advance through the playoffs. Last fall, before NASCAR introduced stage racing and playoff bonus points, Truex was eliminated from the playoffs after blowing an engine in the sixth postseason race, despite winning two of the first three playoff races.
“We’re doing a good job of accumulating them and that protects you in the scenario when you have something like what happened to us last year at Talladega,” Pearn said of bonus points. “You’re definitely in a better position to avoid a catastrophe, so to speak.”
Martin Truex Jr., driving the No. 78 Toyota Camry for Denver-based FRR at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last weekend, will be in Indianapolis for Sunday’s running of the Brickyard 400. Truex has three victories this year.
Martin Truex Jr. places a polesitter sticker on his FRR car before a practice session at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last weekend.