The Denver, Colorado outfit had done the unthinkable and won themselves a Monster Energy Nascar Cup Series championship. Going into the 2018 campaign, they were thought to be the favorite. Everything went their way last year, eight wins, four poles, and 24 top-five finishes could only mean that the needle for this team was pointing north. Instead, we get the news that Furniture Row Racing (FRR) are closing their doors at the end of this campaign. These are my 3 significant factors that lead Barney Visser, owner of Furniture Row Racing, to this heartbreaking decision.
It was no secret that FRR was concerned over monetary issues. You could walk around the open pits of dirt tracks and into the technological paddocks of Formula One, and I’m sure every team principle, car owner, and driver will tell you money is one of their main concerns. Barney Visser had funded this team out of his pocket since its inception in 2005, funneling tens of millions of dollars into producing a capable car over the last decade-plus. Last year, FRR was able to become fully funded for the first time in their history. The news that losing the 5-Hour Energy sponsorship for 14 races next season meant that Visser would now have to foot a large part of the bill again. He has said,” 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.”
There were speculations that the 2017 champions and their alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR)/Toyota could be in limbo. It was confirmed in an article on August 30th by Amanda Vincent on thedrive.com that a merging deal between Furniture Row Racing and GMS Racing did fall through. FRR president Joe Garone went on to say “We want to continue with Toyota, perhaps contract [downsize] and not have to rely on a technical partner. But this is a team that is not satisfied with just running. We want to be competitive.”
3. Visser’s Personal Health
Visser had suffered a heart attack during the playoffs last year and had to watch his #78 Toyota cross the finish line as a champion from the comfort of his home. When talking to speedsport.com about the closing of his team, Visser said “…I need to make the best decisions that will have an impact on myself and my family.”
As we sifted through the smoke and rubble from his announcement, one thing is clear. It takes a lot of money to stay competitive in this sport, but we still have a lot of unknown factors to this announcement. For example, how much Barney Visser was asking for those 14 races? How much were those parts JGR were selling to FRR? Did having a driver, who wasn’t signed to a contract after this year, deter potential sponsors in signing a deal with FRR? With big-time sponsors already paying top dollar for these cars to race, it begs the question, how much money becomes not enough money? If you put enough weight on a structure, it will collapse, and I’m sure NASCAR and their teams have been seeing the cracks on the walls.
NASCAR has tried to find ways to reduce the cost of spending. Spec airguns have been given to each team from NASCAR because these race teams were spending millions of dollars trying to find a thousandth of a second on pit road so they wouldn’t have to find it on the racetrack. If that spending seems silly, imagine how much goes into one race car, let alone the many other chassis that they have sitting on jack stands back at the race shop.
NASCAR needs to look at the work done by IMSA and IndyCar and follow their footsteps. They have gone through these trying times and have come out ahead. The sooner NASCAR can start this train, the better. Focus on creating spec cars and parts at an affordable price, let’s make these cars less aero dependent, simpler, and maybe we can attract sponsors again when the dollar signs for race cars aren’t so high. Make these teams work with what they are given, not with what they can create.
As fans, we often forget the business side of sports. Teams can move, teams get sold to new owners, and as the racing world has seen many times before, teams can cease operations. Fans should expect transactions like these to happen but rarely does a team at the pinnacle of their success, crumple to the conclusion of needing to close their doors. Furniture Row Racing has lived their fairy tail dream, but at the end of this 2018 season, the clock will hit midnight.