Truex confirmed at Furniture Row for 2014

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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.

Schmidt Peterson confirms all-Canadian lineup of Hinchcliffe, Wickens

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The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team is going for a diet of denim, maple syrup, pace and politeness in its 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series lineup, with an all-Canadian pairing of James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens confirmed for next season.

Hinchcliffe was known to want a driver of Wickens’ caliber alongside him in the second seat after three less-than-fruitful seasons with James Jakes (2015), Mikhail Aleshin (2016) and a combination of drivers (Aleshin, Sebastian Saavedra, Jack Harvey) rotated through the second car the last three years.

Recent changes have brought them to this point and now leads them to becoming full-time teammates for the first time in a decade, since the defunct country-focused A1 Grand Prix series in 2007-2008.

Hinchcliffe has re-signed with Schmidt Peterson after three seasons with the team. His first was shortened due to his near life-threatening injuries sustained in an accident in practice for that year’s Indianapolis 500. A rapid and welcome recovery followed throughout the second half of 2015 before his comeback to action in 2016, with an Indianapolis 500 pole and a couple near-misses on wins that followed. In 2017, he won Round 2 at Long Beach but faltered in the second half of the year through a litany of mechanical woes and bad luck.

Wickens, meanwhile, faced an uncertain future when Mercedes-Benz announced earlier this year it would withdraw from DTM at the end of 2018. One of Hinchcliffe’s long-time friends, Wickens hasn’t raced full-time in North America in more than a decade since they were both in Formula Atlantic in 2007, at separate teams (Wickens at Red Bull Forsythe Racing and Hinchcliffe at Sierra Sierra Enterprises). As he pursued his Formula 1 dream and had a wealth of success in the junior series, he never got a proper shot, and has since gone onto several successful years with Mercedes in DTM.

A ride-swap between the two of them came together earlier this year where Wickens sampled Hinchcliffe’s No. 5 Arrow Electronics Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda at Sebring’s short course, while Hinchcliffe then flew to Italy to sample Wickens’ Mercedes-AMG C63 DTM after the St. Petersburg season opener. Hinchcliffe ended 13th in points in IndyCar, Wickens ninth in DTM this year, both with one win each during the year. Wickens also had a Friday to sample the No. 7 Lucas Oil SPM Honda at Road America this year, but had to relinquish the seat once Aleshin returned from a visa issue.

“Not only am I really excited to be able to say I’ll be back with SPM for next year and beyond, but I am also really looking forward to being teammates with one of my oldest friends,” said Hinchcliffe.

“Robbie and I grew up racing against one another, eventually took different paths, me staying in North America in open-wheel cars and him going off to Europe in sports cars, but it’s pretty neat that we both ended up here and we get to live our dream of being professional racing drivers, together on the same team.

“I think 2018 is going to be a great year for the SPM organization, from having Robbie here to the team’s new partnership with Honda and the 2018 aero kit; I just can’t wait to get back on track and bring some good results home for the Arrow Electronics crew.”

Wickens added: “This is an entirely new chapter to add to my racing career, and I am really excited for this opportunity that Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has given me.

“I think everyone knows the story by now that James and I grew up racing against one another in go karts, and to make it to the largest open-wheel racing series in North America together as teammates, it’s crazy to think about.

“I am very thankful for the six years I had with everyone at Mercedes and DTM; those are memories I will cherish forever. I can’t wait to truly see what the Verizon IndyCar Series is all about!”