NASCAR’s Defending Championship Team to Cease Operations at End of ’18 Season

Daytona 500 - Practice

Furniture Row Racing (FRR) has announced that it plans to cease operations at the completion of the 2018 NASCAR season. The Denver based single-car racing team lost its ability to fund the #78 car following 5-Hour Energy’s July decision to drop its co-primary sponsorship (along with Bass Pro Shops) and amidst an ongoing struggle to re-sign its technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing (due to rising costs). Team Owner Barney Visser explained, “the numbers just don’t add up. I would have to borrow money to continue as a competitive team and I’m not going to do that.” FRR GM Joe Garone called FRR’s plight from champions to out of business in 10 months a “wake-up call” for the sport.

Howie Long-Short: Furniture Row Racing didn’t fail because of a lack of success on the track, they’re the defending Cup Series championship team and currently running 3rd in the standings, which makes their inability to make ends meet particularly concerning for the sport. If one NASCAR’s most successful teams can’t find sponsorship partners and is unable to churn a profit, the business model no longer works. It doesn’t sound as if wholesale changes are coming though, the sanctioning body issued a statement saying, “NASCAR will continue to work with the race teams on competitive and operational excellence. Much of those efforts have already been put in place, and will continue to be a focus.” If that’s the case, why is FRR shutting its doors?

Garone said that teams that rely on sponsorship revenue to operate have “no runway if something goes wrong” (i.e. loss of a major sponsor). If that’s true and there’s more teams in that position then one’s backed by billionaire owners willing to eat losses, I’m concerned FRR won’t be the last to leave the sport.

Fan Marino: FRR’s decision to close up shop has to be disappointing to Toyota (TM), as the company wants to run 5 or 6 cars in the Cup Series field; should Truex Jr. decide to sign with someone other than Joe Gibbs Racing, the manufacturer would have just 4 cars racing on the circuit. With that said, many suspect that Truex Jr. (and crew chief Cole Pearn) will end up with JGR in the #19 car; if the team can find a home for Daniel Suarez (the JGR driver most assume will be moved) on a Toyota satellite. If he doesn’t, expect him to land with Stewart-Haas Racing (strong relationship with Bass Pro Shops, Kurt Busch is free agent) or Leavine Family Racing (contemplating move from Chevy to Toyota).

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Author: John Wall Street

At the intersection of sports & finance.

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