With the announcement that Juan Pablo Montoya is returning to Indy Car racing, one of the drivers to logically look at to fill the ‘78’ ride at Furniture Row Racing has, in effect, removed his name from consideration for it. Even before Kurt Busch signaled his intentions to sign with Stewart-Haas Racing, a load of names came up.
One by one, Kurt Busch, AJ Allmendinger, Brian Vickers, Kyle Larson, Ryan Newman, and others announced moves to SHR, JTG Daugherty, Michael Waltrip Racing, Earnhardt- Ganassi and Richard Childress. In other words, the hotter free agent possibilities have settled in elsewhere.
While a one-car operation running out of Denver, Colorado may not be for everybody, a move to Furniture Row would be far from NASCAR purgatory. The team became the first single-car operation to make the Chase this season. In spite of Busch the Elder’s impending departure, no one is mailing it in, which speaks well of driver and organization. Who should it be? There are options.
Interestingly enough, with the intrigue of the past couple of weeks, that driver could very well be Martin Truex Jr. While not quite in the same league as Kurt Busch, he has proven to be a darn fine racer. If you want to play that out further, there’s even the possibility that NAPA could help lighten the financial load, OR even raise the possibility of Furniture Row becoming a multi-car team.
They could go with a big name veteran like Mark Martin or Bobby Labonte. You know you will get a driver who will represent your sponsor well, and more often than not get the car back the garage in one piece. On the other hand, Martin seems better suited to part-time status, and Labonte hasn’t raced at a high level in a long time; one could well argue the 47 got better results from Marcos Ambrose than they did the 49-year old former champ. Let’s not forget Jeff Burton, another top driver from days gone by who has been rather quite the last few seasons. With these three, what you see is what you get. It’s good, but is that what Barney Visser wants?
They could also go the journeyman route with a veteran Nationwide racer like Elliott Sadler, or maybe even reach out to former FRR driver Regan Smith. How about Trevor Bayne, who is not quite a kid anymore? Sam Hornish faithful pilots of Nationwide ride for Penske, but unless some a new sponsor steps up, one can’t expect to see the ‘12’ car return to Cup competition.
Word has it they want a younger driver. There’s little question there have been drivers toiling in the Nationwide Series, who may…or may not ready for prime time. Ryan Blaney is a name that comes up, then suddenly names flash to mind such as Brian Scott, James Buescher, maybe Michael Annett and a host of others. With any of them, there may be existing agreements to try to opt out, which may or may not be easily done.
What say you? This could be a great deal for somebody. It’s just a matter the right match to advance the career of the driver and the profile of Furniture Row.