Truex confirmed at Furniture Row for 2014

Leave a comment

The latest official NASCAR 2014 silly season domino has fallen. Martin Truex Jr., as had been rumored and forecast for a few weeks, will switch to Furniture Row Racing and take over the No. 78 Chevrolet in a multi-year deal. The team announced the move Friday at Texas Motor Speedway.

“I know it’s been a big secret and everyone’s really shocked,” Truex joked. “In all seriousness it’s a big deal for me. Excited to drive with Joe (Garone, GM of FRR) and Barney (Visser, owner). I’m impressed with their organization, what they’ve done this year. Anyone in this garage area will tell you how impressed they are to see them progress.”

Truex leaves Michael Waltrip Racing after four seasons, and five with DEI/Chip Ganassi Racing prior to that.

“It’s an opportunity to go to a winning race car, start fresh, and do things I want to do,” Truex said of his move to the Denver-based organization. “It’s only the second time I’ve changed teams. It’s very difficult. I really enjoyed my four years at Michael Waltrip Racing, wouldn’t change anything there. But I felt it was time for change.”

A dark cloud has followed Truex since Richmond, when as the beneficiary of other MWR team tactics, he provisionally made it into the 2013 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup.

We say provisionally here because the penalties imposed on the team after Clint Bowyer’s race-altering spin would affect Truex, and kicked him out of the Chase. Shortly thereafter, Truex’s primary sponsor NAPA withdrew its support and the team announced a reduction from three to two full-time cars.

Waltrip told Truex he was free to seek other options, and the Mayetta, N.J. did so over the last month. The problem for Truex is that the lone plum ride available was at Furniture Row, after a half dozen other big seats (two Stewart Haas and one Childress, Ganassi, JTG Daugherty, and MWR) already changed hands.

“I think the biggest thing for me as a driver was that when dominos started to fall, I wasn’t sure where I’d end up,” Truex said. “I feel really blessed, really lucky.”

Nonetheless, this is a team on the rise thanks to Kurt Busch’s efforts over the last year-plus and Truex is a driver on the rise after his best season with MWR to this point. He got his first win in six years, an emotional triumph on the road course at Sonoma in June.

Now, he’ll have the added motivation of fighting back from bad luck that sabotaged the second half of his season, in new digs.

Street race in Vietnam could lead Formula One’s Asia expansion

Formula One logo
Leave a comment

TOKYO (AP) — Formula One is expected to add more races in Asia, including a street circuit in the capital of Vietnam, a country with little auto racing history that is on the verge of getting a marquee event.

“We think Hanoi could come on in the next couple of years, and we’re working with the Hanoi government to that end,” Sean Bratches, Formula One’s managing director of commercial operations, told the Associated Press.

There is even speculation it could be on the schedule next season, which Bratches rebuffed.

Vietnam would join countries like Azerbaijan, Russia and Bahrain, which have Grand Prix races, little history in the sport, and authoritarian governments with deep pockets that serve F1 as it tries to expand into new markets.

“This (Hanoi) is a street race where we can go downtown, where we can activate a large fan base,” Bratches said. “And you have extraordinary iconography from a television standpoint.”

A second race in China is also likely and would join Shanghai on the F1 calendar. Bratches said deciding where to stage the GP will “be left to local Chinese partners” – Beijing is a strong candidate.

Bratches runs the commercial side of Formula One, which was acquired last year by U.S.-based Liberty Media from long-time operator Bernie Ecclestone.

Formula One’s long-term goal is to have 24-25 races – up from the present 21 – and arrange them in three geographical segments: Asia, Europe and the Americas. Bratches said the Europe-based races would stay in middle of the calendar, with Asia or the Americas opening or ending the season.

He said their positioning had not been decided, and getting this done will be slowed by current contracts that mandate specific places on the calendar for several races. This means eventually that all the races in Asia would be run together, as would races in Europe and the Americas.

The F1 schedule is now an inefficient jumble, allowing Bratches to take a good-natured poke at how the sport was run under Ecclestone.

“We’ve acquired an undermanaged asset that’s 67-years-old, but effectively a start-up,” Bratches said.

Early-season races in Australia and China this year were conducted either side of a trip to Bahrain in the Middle East. Late in the season Formula One returns to Asia with races in Japan and Singapore.

The Canadian GP this season is run in the middle of the European swing, separated by four months from the other races in the Americas – the United States, Mexico and Brazil. These three are followed by the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi, which means another trip across the globe.

“With the right economics, with the right structure and cadence of events across territories, 24 or 25 is probably where we’d like to be from a longer-term standpoint,” Bratches said.

Big changes are not likely to happen until the 2020 season ends. This is when many current rules and contracts expire as F1’s new owners try to redistribute some income to allow smaller teams to compete.

“There’s more interest than we have capacity in the schedule,” Bratches said, firing off Berlin, Paris or London as potentially attractive venues. “We want to be very selective.”

“Those cites from an economic impact standpoint would find us value, as do others around the world,” Bratches added. “It’s very important for us as we move forward to go to locations that are a credit to the Formula One brand.”

An expanded schedule would have to be approved by the teams, which will be stretched by the travel and the wear-and-tear on their crews. The burden will fall on the smaller teams, which have significantly smaller revenue compared with Ferrari, Mercedes or Red Bull.

Bratches also envisions another race in the U.S., joining the United States Grand Prix held annually in Austin, Texas. A street race in Miami is a strong candidate, as are possible venues like Las Vegas or New York.

“We see the United States and China as countries that could support two races,” he said.

Liberty Media has reported Formula One’s total annual revenue at $1.8 billion, generated by fees paid by promoters, broadcast rights, advertising and sponsorship. Race promotion fees also tend to be higher in Asia, which makes the area attractive – along with a largely untapped fan base.

In a four-year cycle, F1 generates more revenue than FIFA or the International Olympic Committee, which rely almost entirely on one-time showcase events.

Reports suggest Vietnamese promoters may pay between $50-60 million annually as a race fee, with those fees paid by the government. Bratches said 19 of 21 Formula One races are supported by government payments.

“The race promotion fee being derived from the government … is a model that has worked historically,” Bratches said.