It helps that they’re going for a championship for this weekend’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at the Homestead-Miami Speedway or it would be a highly emotional one for Furniture Row Racing. See, FRR is shutting their doors for good once Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 (2:30 p.m. ET/NBC/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) is over. In fact, the doors are likely already shut as the team departed for South Florida on Wednesday morning.
The emotional goodbyes from the Colorado shop were already in store as the team embarks on a second consecutive Cup Series championship this weekend. If not for being playoff eligible still, you can see where this could be an emotional goodbye.
With a team shutting down, that means all the employees must find different work. If they want to remain in NASCAR, they must move back to North Carolina where a majority of the other teams are based. That’s because FRR is based in Denver, Colorado and the only team in the entire state. When the team announced during the summer that they’re were shuttering the doors, you can see where the panic would settle in.
These are lives and future of families now at risk. It was a difficult decision to make and one that there really was no win.
“The guys needed time to find employment and that’s why we announced our decision when we did,” said team owner Barney Visser. “I told Martin (Truex) 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 (Pearn, crew chief) all the best next year at Joe Gibbs Racing. Two outstanding individuals who are extremely talented in what they do. They will be a huge asset to JGR.”
You can see though where this whole thing could have gone south. They needed a sponsor to continue on but without someone walking in with a big check as Visser says, they needed to give their employees a chance to find employment for 2019. But, in order to find employment, their focus would be elsewhere and not on finishing the goal of winning the 2018 championship. It was a slippery slope, one that Visser says the team showed their ultimate character through.
“The team remained a team during this period and I am proud of the way they handled this difficult and emotional situation,” Visser said of the difficult decision. “I think everybody who has had an opportunity to work in our shop is probably better for it. I believe they’re better craftsmen and have known or have learned what it takes to be a winner. On the flip side, I do feel a responsibility for moving the guys out here and want to see them get placed. That is very important to me.”
Visser, credits Team President Joe Garrone for keeping the wheels on track and for ultimately this team staying in the thick of things for as long as they have and being a legitimate championship contender on Sunday.
“I think Joe Garone has done a good job managing that as well as it could be managed. I think it’s been difficult. But I believe everyone in that shop wants to win the championship and we still have the common goal and that’s to win it again.
“And speaking of Joe, he has been the catalyst in building this team to a championship level. I knew nothing about racing and I depended on Joe and he sure delivered in a big way. He is at the shop every morning, travels with the team – a seven-day-a-week guy who rarely took a day off. He has an uncanny ability to go through mountains of information and sort the unimportant from the important. He filled whatever role needed to be filled. He was the glue of this team and I sincerely appreciate his talent and work ethic. We would not be going to Homestead challenging for a championship without him.”
Visser says that the team will remain focused this weekend and won’t let everything truly settle in until the checkered flag drops on Sunday evening.
“From a team standpoint we’re going to try and not get too emotional. 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.”
Visser says that there are no plans to continue this thing next season and that there was no turning back. Sunday is truly it. Can they go out with a Hollywood ending?