There were several drivers who had disappointing seasons in the 2014 season. Included in those drivers is Mayetta, New Jersey native Martin Truex Jr. Truex joined Furniture Row Racing after spending the previous five seasons at Michael Waltrip Racing. Truex had a contract that ran through the 2017 season with the organization but that all changed on one September night at Richmond International Raceway.
The infamous “spingate” scandal happened on Saturday September 7, 2013 when Truex’s teammate Clint Bowyer spun on lap 394 of a 400 lap race at Richmond International Speedway. Several drivers and teams felt that Bowyer spun intentionally. The spin was very beneficial to Truex. While Truex had nothing to do with the controversy, which was coerced by team general manager Ty Norris (among others), he seemed to get hit the worst.
After an impressive seventh place finish at Richmond Truex found himself in the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup, but for only a couple of days. The 2013 season looked like it was going to be a significant year in his career, considering how well he ran throughout the year but after a historic 100 point penalty was handed down by NASCAR to Michael Waltrip Racing after the ‘Spingate’ scandal, Truex was outside of the chase. The penalty evaporated all the good memories from the 2013 season. The penalty was devastating for everyone involved including sponsor NAPA Auto Parts, who after spending 14 seasons associated with Michael Waltrip, announced that they would be leaving Michael Waltrip Racing at the end of the season due to the scandal.
From that point Waltrip allowed Truex to explore other options for the 2014 season. His No.56 Toyota ride for the team would no longer have a sponsor and there were doubts coming from the organization that they would be able to field an entry for Truex. Truex explored his options and found a ride at Furniture Row Racing. The team had a seat open after veteran driver Kurt Busch left for Stewart-Haas Racing.
Truex signed a three year contract with Furniture Row Racing in October 2013 and for Truex it was a best case scenario after having such an unfortunate circumstance. Furniture Row Racing finished an impressive 10th in the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings and the team has a major association with Richard Childress Racing. For Truex things looked to be in line for a solid 2014 season.
However, the 2014 season was a tough one for Truex. He and crew chief Todd Berrier did not seem to be on the same page for most of the season and the performance of the No. 78 team was down for most of the season. Truex only recorded one top-five finish and five top-10 finishes. It was a far cry from the 2013 season which saw Kurt Busch rattle off 11 top-five finishes and 16 top-10 finishes. It was a disappointing year for Truex and the Furniture Row Racing team.
The struggles in 2014 forced Furniture Row Racing to make changes heading into the 2015 season. This week the team announced that crew chief Todd Berrier would be replaced by team engineer Cole Pearn. It will be Pearn’s first chance to crew chief a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series operation. Berrier, meanwhile, will remain with the organization in a major role.
The crew chief change is just more proof that Truex has a lot of pressure to run well heading into the 2015 season. It’s clear that Furniture Row Racing believes they can be much better than they were in the 2014 season and a crew chief change proves that. Truex will be entering his second year of a three year contract at Furniture Row Racing and it may arguably be his most important season.