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Truex Jr. Carrying The Colors For Little Guys

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 17 2015
Martin Truex Jr. and his little old Furniture Row Racing team are giving the mega teams big problems in this year's Chase. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Rusty Jarrett )

Martin Truex Jr. and his little old Furniture Row Racing team are giving the mega teams big problems in this year’s Chase. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Rusty Jarrett )

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – When you talk to NASCAR old-schoolers, and they begin to tick off the reasons why the sport no longer holds the same allure for them and why they have a tough time finding a rooting interest in the Sprint Cup Series, the conversation often turns to this: The sport is ruled by impersonal mega teams.

buganalysisIt’s a point well taken. A sport that was founded and raised by common people is now the property of teams that employ more people than lived in the hometowns of some of the pioneering drivers.

Fans at this very moment can, with a fair amount of accuracy, predict that the 2015 and 2016 championship and then next 10 championships after that, will be won by a driver from Charlotte-based, multi-car team owned by somebody named Hendrick, Gibbs, Penske or Stewart/Haas.

But a couple of days ago, Martin Truex Jr. sent out a Tweet that let fans and perhaps the people named above that there’s a turd in the Sprint Cup churn: “Most don’t see us. We’re still here.”

The “us” is Truex’s Furniture Row Racing team and they are indeed still “here” and there is very little mega when it comes to them.

The story is well known and it’s pretty much the same as it has been for them since FRR was founded by Colorado furniture salesman Barney Visser in 2005. One car, one driver, based in Denver and always a long shot to win races, let alone championships.

Martin Truex Jr. is alive and representing in the in the 2015 Chase. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

Martin Truex Jr. is alive and representing in the in the 2015 Chase. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

A couple years ago, the team flashed medium intensely when outcast former champion Kurt Busch came over and notched the kind of finishes that were respectable for big teams but huge for the FFR folks.

Busch got the better offer, split after one season and the team hired journeyman Truex to replace him in 2014. The move appeared a bad one as FRR’s No. 78 Chevy returned to mid pack.

But this year, Truex and his FRR people have let the racing world know that 2013’s over-achieving season was not all the result of Busch’s talents.

Truex did something this year that Busch could not do – win a race in the 78. That victory, which came at Pocono, put the team in the Chase. But it was not just the one victory that is defining this team. It is a season-long ability to run with the big boys .

Truex has posted 19 top-10 finishes in 30 starts in 2015. His average finish is 12.6 and he’s led 536 laps.

And he easily advanced to the current second round of the elimination-format Chase playoffs.

Old schoolers didn’t need to see Truex’s Tweet to know their boy is still in the hunt.

Others may have but Truex said Friday at Kansas Speedway – site of Sunday’s Cup race – that he not only doesn’t care, but that he kind of likes it that way.

“I love it. I think it’s great,” he said of invisibly lurking as the Chase proceeds. “I think it’s a perfect position for us to be in. The only pressure we have is what we put on ourselves. We know what we’re capable of, and if we fall short of that we’re going to be disappointed. There’s no outside pressure. There are no expectations for us. It’s all about our expectations for ourselves, within our group. And we know what we’re capable of.”

Busch said many of the same things in 2013. One day that year he sat in the very same Kansas infield and talked about all the things FRR had going for it. He talked about potential and laid back Colorado and bins full of shiny new car parts in the Denver race shop.

But listening to him that day, one could not help but feel that Busch’s stay at FRR would be brief. Busch is anything but laid back himself. You just knew that when a mega came calling, Busch would be walking.

Truex is a different person. He seems as content at FRR as he was at the giant Earnhardt Ganassi and Michael Waltrip teams.

Busch winced at being and underdog. Truex winks.

“I think it’s kind of neat, you know?” Truex said. “If you look at it, we are an underdog. I’ve never finished in the top 10 in points. We’ve got a rookie crew chief and a single car team in Denver. There are a lot of things that make us an underdog. We’re a small team. Like I said, I think it’s a cool position to be in and I think we don’t get enough credit for what we’ve done this year; but at the same time, we don’t have that past history or that track record in the Chase or in championship battles. So, I think it’s fair; but I think it’s kind of a fun position for us to be in.”

The fun could roll on if Truex were to advance to the third round of the playoffs. But to do so, he will need great finishes – or perhaps even a victory – at Kansas and then Talladega next weekend.

With Talladega being Talladega, Truex would prefer to have a winning weekend at the far more tame Kansas intermediate track. He was asked about the prospect of needing to hit the high banks of the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway in need of a win.

“I don’t plan on that happening,” Truex said. “Let’s talk about that next week. No honestly, we’re completely right now on Kansas. We know what we can get done here. I think if we can come out of here with a top 5, we’ll feel pretty good. A win, obviously, is what everybody is after. Again, we’re going to do all we can to try to get that done this weekend and we’ll worry about Talladega when we get there.”

A win at either place will be a win, if not for old school 2015-style, but for those fed up with the Charlotte Cup aristocracy.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 17 2015
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  • Mark Jones says:

    Love this article, I have few worries for this team making the next round. I don’t think there are 8 better teams than this one right now to be honest. These guys are focused. I personally haven’t enjoyed a run like this since Alan Kulwicki and I hope I see Martin and the boys on the podium at Homestead. It would be great for FRR, NASCAR, Denver, and all of racing frankly…