As Horace Greely famously said: "Go West, young man." And so he did.
After the debacle in September at Richmond that saw Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR) heavily penalized for cheating and ultimately caused Martin Truex Jr. to lose his ride, the 33 year old Truex has landed on his feet, signing with the Colorado based Furniture Row Racing (FRR) for the 2014 season.
The #78 Chevrolet owned by Barney Visser has become somewhat of a coveted seat even though they are a one-car team based 1,600 miles away from the center of stock car racing in North Carolina. With the help of Kurt Busch, FRR made the Chase for the first time and is the only one-car team presently in the Sprint Cup playoffs – currently seventh with five races remaining. Busch is leaving FRR for Stewart Haas Racing in 2014.
He's good but ...
Truex was certainly unlucky this year considering he wasn’t the source of the cheating; but indeed, his #56 car did benefit from the team's wrongdoings. In the end, he became the target for penalties and backlash that eventually led the cars sponsor, Napa Auto Parts, to rescind their marketing partnership with MWR after being with Michael for about a decade. Among the multiple punishments from NASCAR was Truex being tossed out of the playoffs.
Truex had a good year going, including grabbing his second career victory at the start of summer with a surprising win at Sonoma. The #56 was in and out of the running for the playoffs and didn’t look good at the regular season finale at Richmond. However, his teammates Brian Vickers and Clint Bowyer had purposely caused yellows, which allowed Truex to make up positions while hurting the guys he was trying to beat out. NASCAR wouldn’t allow the manipulation of the original finish to stand, thus Truex was out of the playoffs and eventually out of a job for next year.
On a side note, there is added turmoil at MWR when it was announced earlier this week that Brian Vickers was lost for the season due to blood clots in his right leg. Vickers had just earned a full-time Cup ride with MWR for next year, which doesn’t appear to be in jeopardy. In the spring of 2010, Vickers had a similar problem and missed the rest of that season. It had taken until recent for Vickers to manage his way back into the Cup series. Elliott Sadler will fill in for Vickers over the final five races of this season.
The sanctions incurred by NASCAR and the resulting loss of funding have left MWR devastated. The only good news out of MWR is that their other major sponsors, Aaron’s and 5-Hour Energy, stated they will stay with the team for 2014. Still, the fallout will be felt for years to come and considering Michael Waltrip had finally built a championship quality organization, it does seem an indignity at the very least.
It might not be a good time to be Michael Waltrip, but it looks like Martin Truex Jr. has salvaged his career with a decent ride out West.