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.
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.
Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.
There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.
Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.
Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.
By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.
With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.
This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.
Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.
Two privateers have started the season on a high note.
Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.
The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.
Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.
In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.