You know, it’s not supposed to be like this. Furniture Row Racing is supposed to be the “kid brother” to Joe Gibbs Racing. One team has two former champions, a perennial contender and a promising rookie. The other has a grizzled journeyman who once went six YEARS between his first and second career victory and a rookie. One team enjoys the spoils of residing in NASCAR’s heartland. The other toils on the outer reaches of the NASCAR frontier in Denver, Colorado- far, far away from the Charlotte area.
Furniture Row Racing isn’t following the script. Who would have imagined Martin Truex Jr. would have three wins on the season, while JGR has, wait for it, zero. You would think that if Gibbs is struggling, the same would apply to the “little” team aligned with them. Yet somehow, FRR is not only getting another stellar season from the man who succeeded Kurt Busch in the 78, rookie Erik Jones is isn’t fairing too badly either in 14th. Whatever the problem is, it’s not Toyota.
The Quaker State 400 was a microcosm of the season thus far for these two Toyota teams. Once again, Kyle Busch held a wicked wheel, but as the race wore on, the car wore out. Did you catch the interview on TV with the crew chief of the 18- Adam Stevens? He looked flummoxed. In spite of Kyle’s finish, you just never got the feeling that Busch had a winning car. Denny Hamlin tried to take a turn out front and sank like a rock. Of course, since no slump is complete without a little bad luck, Matt Kenseth and Daniel Suarez finished just inside the top 20 after having a few good moments.
Now the word is out that Matt Kenseth won’t return to the 20 in 2018. Now, to be sure, Furniture Row Racing isn’t saying Jones is a lock. Silly season has become a complicated affair. Nonetheless, concerning JGR, there’s an overall sense of unrest, that things aren’t what they ordinarily are.
A lot can happen between now and Homestead. Right now, all the tables seem turned. It reminds this observer of the scene from the Civil War, when a freed slave who fought for the Union came across his former owner, a Confederate soldier who had been captured. The slave said “Hello Massa, bottom rail on top this time.” Furniture Row Racing has made the most of its resources, and it’s Barney Visser’s boys leading the way for Toyota.