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Jun 14, 2024 7:09 pm

Examining Martin Truex Jr.’s legacy, from Furniture Row to JGR

martin truex celebrates

When Martin Truex Jr. won at Pocono Raceway on June 7, 2015, most race fans didn’t read too deeply into it.

While it was nice to see Truex, who hadn’t won since Sonoma in 2013, get back to victory lane after a 2014 season where his only highlight was a spat with Kyle Busch at Atlanta, the win was thought to be a fluke. A feel-good story, to be sure, but not a particularly memorable race in the grand scheme of the NASCAR record books.

Nearly a decade later, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

With the official announcement that Truex will retire from NASCAR competition at the conclusion of 2024, that 2015 race at Pocono will forever be remembered as the race that saved both Truex’s career and Furniture Row Racing.

That day in Pennsylvania turned out to be the catalyst for a 3 1/2-year run in which Truex won 17 races and the 2017 championship. In four seasons, Truex made the Championship Four three times. Not shabby for a driver whose best points finish prior was 11th.

As Harry Gant and Greg Biffle proved before Truex, it’s still possible to win races and be a championship contender no matter how late you start your career. While Truex won his first Cup Series race at the age of 26, he didn’t win his second until he was 32. Truex may have started his career in his mid-20s, but it didn’t fully take off until his mid-30s.

Though Truex saw respectable results during his tenure at Michael Waltrip Racing, the infamous “Spingate” scandal in the fall of 2013 rocked MWR. Truex’s primary sponsor, NAPA Auto Parts, backed out, leaving Truex without a ride for 2014.

Forced to rebuild his career from scratch, Truex joined Furniture Row Racing, a team whose only Cup Series win to that point was Regan Smith’s victory at the 2011 Southern 500. With Kurt Busch leaving for a fourth car at Stewart-Haas Racing, Furniture Row signed Truex, and it turned out to be a pivotal move for both parties.

While Furniture Row was forced to close its doors at the conclusion of the 2018 season, they’ll forever be linked to Truex, who brought the team to heights that owner Barney Visser never could have imagined.

Had he wanted to, Truex could’ve easily went out with his team after 2018. With a Cup Series championship, Coca-Cola 600 and Southern 500 all under his belt, he had built a Hall of Fame-worthy career in just four seasons.

Instead, Truex quickly found a seat with Joe Gibbs Racing, driving the No. 19 car. He lit the world on fire in 2019, winning seven races and once again making the Championship Four. He’s brought his career total to 34 wins since then, and he sits fifth in the regular-season standings this year despite being winless entering this weekend’s race at Iowa Speedway.

His legacy will always be that of a late bloomer who decidedly took over the NASCAR Cup Series with a team that, by every conceivable measure, had no business winning anything. His story easily makes for one of the best career renaissances in NASCAR history, and the way he rebuilt his career with an underdog team makes the tale that much more endearing.

–Who’s next?

According to multiple reports, Chase Briscoe is the leading candidate to replace Truex in the No. 19 car. With Stewart-Haas Racing closing at the end of 2024 — ironically, the same fate that met Furniture Row in 2018 — Briscoe has been the most sought-after SHR driver, and a pairing of Briscoe and Gibbs could be a formidable one.

Briscoe is the only driver of SHR’s current Cup Series lineup to boast a victory at the Cup level, and while his results have varied over his Cup Series tenure, it’s clear that the quality of cars he’s been driving is not up to par with the top teams in the Cup Series.

Briscoe may not step in and immediately produce the same results that Truex did for JGR, but it’s not unreasonable to assume he could be a top-10 driver in the series in a new ride. With a top-tier car in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2020, Briscoe won a staggering nine races, proving he can be a threat with good equipment under him.

Joe Gibbs Racing likely won’t make a decision on who will pilot the No. 19 car until later in the year, but if they choose Briscoe, he would finally have the opportunity he deserves in the Cup Series.

–Samuel Stubbs, Field Level Media

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