Team buys out Nemechek's '09 deal; driver free to sign elsewhere

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The economy has taken its toll on driver deals as well.

Furniture Row Racing, which recently announced it would field a Sprint Cup team on a limited schedule in 2009, has bought out the contract of Joe Nemechek.

"Just like the reduced schedule announcement, this buyout of Joe's contract has nothing to do with his on-track performance," team president Joe Garone said in a statement. "But our contract with Joe for 2009 was for a full schedule and we're not able to fulfill that part of the deal.

"This move is doing what is best for both Joe and our team. It doesn't require us to have him drive for Furniture Row in 2009, but it doesn't restrict him from doing what he loves -- and that's racing at the highest level every week of the season."

Furniture Row Racing is coming off its best year, qualifying for 32 out of 36 races, earning a pole position at Talladega Superspeedway and having several strong finishes.

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.