t didn’t take long for driver Martin Truex
Jr., crew chief Cole Pearn, and the rest of
the Furniture Row Racing team to make
their bones with new-for-2016 partners
Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota.
After the final Happy Hour practice
prior to the season-opening Daytona 500,
there was an all-hands competition
meeting at the track with David Wilson,
president of TRD, U.S.A., his top
lieutenant Andy Graves, and the drivers,
crew chiefs and assorted personnel from
the two NASCAR race teams.
“We had a plan,” says Wilson, the
brilliant Toyota leader and former U.S.
Army Ranger. “When we went out in
practice Saturday afternoon, the five
Toyotas lined up. We were at the top of
the timing and scoring. We realized that
our five cars working together could truly
do something special on Sunday.”
Of course, as Mike Tyson is fond of
saying, everybody has a plan until they
get punched in the mouth, and Daytona is
a place where a lot of racers get punched,
“Think about how many plans you put
in place before the race as momentous as
this,” says Wilson. “You can’t control what
you can’t control. Most of the time those
plans go by the wayside.
“But our teams and our drivers had
the discipline and the trust in each other
to execute that plan to an absolute ‘T.’
To come all the way to the white flag,
1-2-3- 4-5, and then it was a race.”
Ultimately, Denny Hamlin’s JGR Toyota
crossed the start-finish line 0.010sec
ahead of Truex, with JGR’s Kyle Busch
and Carl Edwards finishing third and fifth,
respectively. It was the biggest single race
in Toyota’s history and it was a seminal
moment for Furniture Row: They’d earned
their place on the roster, with Truex and
the four JGR cars now functioning
essentially as one five-car team.
“Cole and Martin full well understood.
They had to prove themselves and it was
going to take time,” says Graves, the
An off-season switch
from Chidress and
Chevy to Gibbs and
Toyota has proved to
be a canny move for
the NASCAR Sprint
Cup Series’ only
Furniture Row Racing.