2017 NASCAR Team Recap: Furniture Row Racing

(Photo: Logan Whitton/Harrelson Photography Inc.)

By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

For the final five days of 2017, Kickin’ the Tires will recap each of the top 10 teams in the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings, laying out their year in statistics and storylines. 

The Breakdown

Wins: Eight

Playoff Berths: One

Highest Points Finisher: First

Driver Results:

  • Martin Truex Jr. (First in Points – Eight wins, 19 top fives, 26 top 10s, 2253 laps led, Six DNFs)
  • Erik Jones (19th in Points – Zero wins, Five top fives, 14 top 10s, 310 laps led, Eight DNFs)

What proved to be a trying year off-track developed into a magical on on it as Martin Truex Jr. and Furniture Row Racing (FRR) dominated early and often en-route to their first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship.

Entering 2017 after a strong debut with Toyota in 2016, and two years removed from a breakout year that ended in a Championship 4 berth with Chevrolet, Truex and FRR had all of the potential for a tremendous season.

Truex and crew chief Cole Pearn had found nothing but success in their time together. The team was also expanding to two cars, with hotshot Toyota prospect Erik Jones joining the team for his rookie Cup Series season.

FRR’s Daytona 500 ended in heartbreak for the second-straight season as Truex lost the lead late before finishing 13th. But the New Jersey native made up for the loss quickly, soaring to a victory two weeks later at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

From then on, the sight of Truex at the front of the field became a frequent storyline.

Hearing the phrase, “Stage winner, MTJ,” from spotter Clayton Hughes became commonplace over the course of the year, as did the sight of the No. 78 Toyota in victory lane. Truex claimed four wins in the regular season at Vegas, Kentucky Speedway, Kansas Speedway and Watkins Glen International. By virtue of his success, the veteran also built up a massive advantage in playoff points while rising into the points lead over Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson.

Jones didn’t find the success of his teammate, but the Michigander was in contention. The 2015 Camping World Truck Series champion was in the picture in top fives at Pocono Raceway and Michigan International Speedway. He marched to the lead in his first Bristol Night Race, leading a race-high 260 laps, but lost out on the lead late to Kyle Busch en-route to a runner-up result.

The rookie ended the season in the top 15 in points – a mark that would have made the playoffs in many season – but by virtue of the many surprise winners of 2017 Jones was left on the outside looking in when the postseason arrived.

Meanwhile Truex was declared the sport’s first Regular Season Champion.

He wasn’t happy about it at the time – focused instead on a lost race win in the regular season finale at Richmond Raceway – but the bonus playoff points from the title all-but guaranteed Truex would make the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Based on that, FRR entered the postseason strong. The playoffs went by without a hitch, too, with Truex rolling to the title race with three wins and top fives in all but the wildcard race at Talladega Superspeedway.

But while their on-track performance was near-perfect, off the racing surface FRR were confronting a host of internal issues.

The first challenge presented to the group came with Truex and his long-time girlfriend, Sherry Pollex. When he won at Kentucky, Truex announced that Pollex had suffered a cancer recurrence.

FRR’s tale of woe continued at Kansas in the fall, when the team lost fabricator James “Jim” Watson to a heart attack shortly before race day.

A few weeks later on Nov. 4, team owner Barney Visser had a heart attack, too. Visser survived after successful bypass surgery, but he would be unable to join the team at Homestead.

The challenges built up to cause an emotional year for FRR, but the organization persevered to give Truex a shot at his first Cup Series title.

In the final race of the year, Truex did the same.

He didn’t have the fast car at Homestead. Nor did he have the best handling machine. But Truex benefitted from a failed strategy play from Busch and held the 2015 Cup Series champion off to claim his first series title.

The victory was as emotional as any in the past decade. Tears and cheers flowed in beautiful harmony as the team celebrate on the frontstretch.

Truex’s career-defining drive also capped off what was easily his best season to date. The 37-year-old set career-best marks in wins (8), top fives (19), top 10s (26), laps led (2253) and average finish (9.4).

Jones ended a promising rookie year well behind Truex, beating out fellow rookie Daniel Suarez by one position as he ended the year 19th in points. The results were enough for Jones to earn Rookie of the Year honors.

Next season FRR will return to a one-car organization, fielding just Truex as Jones moves back to Joe Gibbs Racing to replace Matt Kenseth.

That will cut their opportunities to contend on-track in half. But if Truex’s dominant 2017 campaign is any indication, FRR should be just fine.

Team Recaps: 

Germain Racing (Dec. 27)

Roush Fenway Racing (Dec. 27)

Richard Childress Racing (Dec. 28)

Wood Brothers Racing (Dec. 28)

Chip Ganassi Racing (Dec. 29)

Hendrick Motorsports (Dec. 29)

Team Penske (Dec. 30)

Stewart-Haas Racing (Dec. 30)

Joe Gibbs Racing (Dec. 31)

Furniture Row Racing (Dec. 31)

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