TRUEX, FUR­NI­TURE ROW HAV­ING SUPER SEA­SON

Truex, Fur­ni­ture Row Rac­ing hav­ing super sea­son

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Mike Cham­bers The Den­ver Post

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.”

Jared C. Til­ton, Getty Im­ages

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.

Charles Krupa, The As­so­ci­ated Press

Martin Truex Jr. places a pole­sit­ter sticker on his FRR car be­fore a prac­tice ses­sion at New Hamp­shire Mo­tor Speed­way last week­end.

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