Based on miles led in a single race, the most dominant car in NASCAR history was dissected and studied this week at the sanctioning body’s research and development facility in Concord, N.C. The No. 78 Toyota driven by Martin Truex Jr. was shipped back to Denver, where it was recently built inside Furniture Row Racing at 4000 Forest St.
Chassis No. 120 — the 120th car built by FRR since its 2005 inception — will not be driven by Truex at this weekend’s race at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa. The car that led a record 392-of-400 laps last Sunday in winning the Coca-Cola 600 isn’t scheduled to return to competition until the July 7-9 weekend at Kentucky Speedway, which is five races away.
That was the original plan for the remarkable car that led a record 588 miles at Charlotte Motor Speedway and it has nothing to do with the delay in getting it back from NASCAR, which confiscates every winning car for evaluation. In big-league stock car racing, the best teams are stocked with cars — each built for a certain type of track.
FRR owner Barney Visser of Cherry Hills has primarily bankrolled the operation for 11 years, but is optimistic that more sponsors will come to his aid and spearhead the addition of a second FRR driver. Truex has led a series-high 809 laps, including 611 in the past three races, and only bad luck has prevented him from winning multiple times in 13 races.
“I expect to win some races. I did not expect to set all-time NASCAR records,” Visser said. “I just think that’s Martin right now and where he’s at. We’re giving him really good equipment and Martin is in another ZIP code right now. The driver is the quarterback, and this is like getting into the playoffs and having a running back run for 400 yards. That’s what he did.”
FRR has budgeted 13 new cars for the 36-race season plus nonpoints events. The cars are built in the Denver shop for one of four venues: road course (Sonoma, Watkins Glen), short track (1 mile or less), intermediate track (1½.miles) and super speedway (Daytona, Talladega).
“When we get tourists in here, people are shocked that we have so many cars. And then we start talking about the program and they’re like, ‘Well, of course,’” said FRR general manager Joe Garone.
Truex has mastered Pocono before. He took the checkered flag a year ago at the 2½-mile oval. for his first win with FRR.
“It’s in its own class,” Garone said of Pocono, which hosts the Sprint Cup twice annually. “It’s a little like a road course, a little like a super speedway and a little like a short track. All three corners are different and you have that long straightaway. It’s nickname is the Tricky Triangle.”
FRR has been building the Pocono car over the last month and there was no chance the team could instead race Chassis 120 at Pocono, however tempting and despite NASCAR’s hold. Chassis 120 will have to be completely rebuilt after its 600-mile winning journey and the NASCAR autopsy. Every part will be replaced or rebuilt and the body remolded because of the force against it during the race. Garone said cars are rarely legal after a race because of the stress they take during a race.
Other teams might have considered turning around a similarly hot car like Chassis 120. But every other team is based in the Carolinas and doesn’t have a 23-hour drive back to the shop.
“There’s only been a couple times since we’ve been running where we turn cars,” Garone said. “We’ll put everybody in the shop on them and try to turn them. But it’s brutal. And it takes a unique set of circumstances.”
This year, Visser has more sponsorship support than ever, after generally being self-sponsored since 2005. Bass Pro Shops is Truex’s primary sponsor for nine races and Auto Owners Insurance is on various parts of the car. Leading laps leads to mega sponsorship and financial freedom, and FRR is likely to benefit from its success.
“We’re just going to have to see,” said Visser, who founded the Furniture Row outlet stores. “There is a lot of guys dancing around out there. We just don’t know right now. It’s been so helpful to have some help. We needed the help so badly. This stuff has gotten so expensive that we have to have the help.”
The future appears bright for the team. The far-flung, single-car team from Denver saw Truex finish fourth in last year’s standings and is poised for more wins. It seems bad luck is the only thing in its way.
“We can beat bad luck,” Visser said. “We just can’t beat slow.”
Truex by the numbers
A closer look at driver Martin Truex Jr. of Furniture Row Racing. Overall ranking in bold, total in parentheses:
1 Laps led (809)
1-2 Finishes in NASCAR’s top two races to date (Coca-Cola 600, Daytona 500)
5 Average starting position (10.9)
7 Point standing (381)
7 Average finish position (11.5)
Mike Chambers, The Denver Post
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