- John Oreovicz, Autos, Open-Wheel
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One in a series of 15 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team previews ahead of the season-opening Daytona 500:
FURNITURE ROW RACING
Principal owner: Barney Visser
Engine source: Earnhardt Childress Racing
Alliances: Richard Childress Racing
Driver (crew chief): Martin Truex Jr. (Todd Berrier)
2013's top finisher: Kurt Busch, 10th
2013 grade: A-minus
2014 preseason grade: B
2014 outlook: Furniture Row Racing was one of NASCAR's best stories in 2013, as Kurt Busch embraced the team's underdog status and became the first driver from a single-car team to qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Busch didn't win a race for FRR, but he qualified on the front row eight times and posted eight top-5 finishes. However, he was lured away to drive Stewart-Haas Racing's fourth car in 2014, creating an opening for Martin Truex Jr., who arrives with something to prove this year after being controversially excluded from the 2013 Chase due to the actions of his Michael Waltrip Racing teammates. FRR scored a coup by hiring the pit crew from Truex's mostly defunct MWR team, which should address weaknesses in the team's pit stops. FRR's alliance with Richard Childress Racing is one of the strongest in NASCAR, with the team treated essentially like a fourth member of the RCR family. It's up to Truex to determine whether FRR's breakout 2013 season was more a product of the team or former Cup series champion Busch.
Quotable: "One of the big advantages that we have as a single-car team with the type of alliance we have with Richard Childress Racing is our ability to move quickly. The big thing we had to address was our pit crew. Last year we stepped off and did a pit crew program ourselves, trying to build a team. But our pit crew didn't jell and grow as fast as the performance of the car did last year. We were able to acquire the guys that Martin had when that program dissolved. It's a big deal. We were in position to win races at least five times last year, and it's hard when you have one piece of the program that's holding you back or costing you spots on the racetrack. The new car setups kind of level the playing field for everyone, so it's just a matter of getting Martin acclimated to Todd [Berrier, crew chief] and our engineers and guys with their communication." -- Joe Garone, general manager
Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet): "I really enjoyed my time at Michael Waltrip Racing. We did a lot of great things there and I hope I helped build that team into a championship organization. But a lot of things happened last year, and the best thing for me was to move on and forget about it. This helps that process. Moving on has been a good thing for me. Every team in the garage area, especially with the new format, wants to be in the Chase and race for a championship. I've been fortunate enough to be in the Chase a few times, and was unfortunate to be kicked out of it. I think we're going to be a strong contender this year. There's a lot of unknowns, and there will be a lot of things for us to process and go through. But honestly, I feel really good about our chances of being competitive and consistent enough to get ourselves in the Chase. If you're in it, you've got a chance."
2014 goal: Return FRR to the Chase