By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
HOMESTEAD, Fla. – If there was a sentimental favorite to win the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship, Martin Truex, Jr. and Furniture Row Racing were that favorite.
With the impending closure of the team at the end of the season, it would have been a storybook finish to see Truex, crew chief Cole Pearn, owner Barney Visser and the entire organization raise the trophy for the second year in a row before riding off into the sunset and into the annals of NASCAR history.
However, things don’t always go to plan and this time around, they didn’t fall the way Furniture Row would have wanted in the closing laps at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
After making his last pit stop under green, Truex cycled to the front of the field among those that had pitted, with only fellow championship contender Kyle Busch and a couple of others still out on track and hoping to play the long game and catch a caution.
Truex was setting sail toward claiming the lead if the race stayed green and those in front of him were forced to pit road, but of course, the caution flag flew and the Championship 4 were back together again for a final restart with 15 laps to go.
Though he got the jump on the restart, Truex’s lead was short-lived as Joey Logano powered by him on lap 256 and never looked back, leaving Truex to have to settle for a runner-up finish to close out Furniture Row’s run at NASCAR’s highest level.
“It’s a tough night,” Truex said. “You know, it’s a tough way to lose. You know, kind of reversed the tale from last year. Last year we did the same thing they did tonight. That’s the way it goes.”
“Just didn’t play out the way we needed it to. We were terrible for 10, 15 laps on new tires and was able to get a good restart there at the end luckily and get out front, just I had nothing for him at the end. I needed 15, 20 more laps, and that’s just the way it goes. I’m not sure what else to say.
“Really proud of everybody on our team, you know, for fighting hard this year to get to where we were, and without that last caution it was in the bag maybe, I think.”
The Denver, Colorado based team, which launched in 2005, has seen a renaissance in recent years as they made the journey from also-ran team to championship contender under the guidance of Visser and the driver/crew chief pairing of Truex and Pearn.
That journey culminated in them hoisting the championship trophy at the end of last season, a first for both team and driver.
The final tally in the NASCAR record books will show that Furniture Row finished their storied run with 18 wins among two different drivers, 75 top-five finishes, 118 top-10 finishes, and the 2017 Cup Series title.
“Going to miss all the guys, and had a hell of a five years with this team,” said Truex. “So just proud of them, and we’re going to celebrate no matter what tonight.
“Best time of my life. I don’t know what else to say. Those guys have been amazing. They’ve made me a superstar in NASCAR. I’m just very thankful for them all.”
From here, Truex and Pearn are headed to Joe Gibbs Racing, while the remainder of the Furniture Row crew will scatter throughout the NASCAR garage and elsewhere, but no matter where they go, they’ll always be the group that brought a championship to a small team out West and climbed to the top of the mountain.
“To go from a two-race winner to a 19-race winner, a championship, fourth in points, a second in points, it’s just been amazing,” Truex added. “Everything about it has been great. Everything about it has been the best thing I’ve ever been a part of.
“You know, I feel good about my future and going to a great place, and I know we’ll have more success. But it’s going to be different. You know, it’s going to be a different team, a different cast of characters, and these guys were a special group, and I’m very thankful to get to work with all of them.
“A few are coming with us, but the ones that aren’t I wish them the best, and we’ll be friends forever. It’s just been a good ride. It’s been a good run, and I hate to see it come to an end, but everything ends somewhere and things change.”