- Ed Hinton, NASCAR
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FORT WORTH, Texas -- Martin Truex Jr. hinted Friday at turning the whole NASCAR team concept on its ear after making it official he has signed a multiyear contract with one-car Furniture Row.
"I know this has been a big secret and everybody's really shocked," Truex joked about the deal that had been expected since his primary sponsor, NAPA, pulled out of his branch of Michael Waltrip Racing in September.
Truex on Friday left open the possibility that NAPA, plus other sponsors he has worked with over the years, might join Furniture Row to make for the most powerful one-car team since the multicar concept began to dominate Cup racing in the 1990s.
Further, he pointed out the actual advantages of a fully focused one-car team, based in Denver, far from the North Carolina epicenter of the sport, as opposed to current teams that spend a lot of time and energy on public relations.
"Fan experiences and shop tours and that kind of thing don't make race cars faster," he said. "These guys are 100 percent focused on making race cars faster. It's all about racing cars.
"In this day and age it's something you don't see a lot of. A lot of this sport is about the fans and the experience and putting on a show, and these guys are in Denver and they build race cars. Fast race cars."
Regarding the NAPA possibilities, "I can't really say much right now about it; I'm not sure," Truex said, "but they've been great supporters of mine the last four years, and hopefully we'll be able to do something together. ... We've got a lot of great partners that are interested in the program and hopefully, moving forward, we'll be able to put some things together with them."
In contrast to the technological bureaucracy of three- and four-car teams, Furniture Row's advantage is "our ability to move quick," said general manager Joe Garone. "We're real agile."
For example, "If they want to build a part and put it on a race car, they do it," Truex said. "There's no five or six weeks of going through a system to get it on a race car.
"So from a technological standpoint, I think it's a great thing," Truex continued. "There's a lot less channels to go through."
That's much of the reason for the surprising performance this year by the No. 78 team, which as an apparent underdog put Kurt Busch in the Chase with 10 top-five and 15 top-10 finishes, and has run up front in races and sometimes led.
Also, the team has a technological partnership with Richard Childress Racing, so to Furniture Row's own ingenuity it can add the research and development data of RCR.
One team weakness this year has been race day pit crew performance, but Garone said Furniture Row has contracted a full-time crew for next season.
Busch is headed for Stewart-Haas Racing next season, leaving the Furniture Row seat to Truex.
"A few weeks ago, when the dominos started to fall, I wasn't sure where I would end up," Truex said.
In what grew into a scandal at Richmond on Sept. 7, the MWR team manipulated pit stops and Clint Bowyer spun suspiciously to land Truex in the Chase. But NASCAR later penalized the team so that Truex didn't make the playoffs.
Two weeks later, NAPA announced that it would leave MWR at the end of this season, and Michael Waltrip himself cleared the way for Truex to move on if he chose.
"As unlucky as I got at Richmond a month or two ago, I got just as lucky when this deal turned up," Truex said.