By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service
Distributed by The Sports Xchange
FORT WORTH, Tex. -- Driver Martin Truex Jr. believes a change of scenery will change his fortunes.
Furniture Row Racing believes the addition of Truex will help the Denver, Colo.-based team maintain the success it found this year in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with Kurt Busch behind the wheel.
The official -- and expected -- announcement of Truex's move to Furniture Row came Friday morning at Texas Motor Speedway, where the 33-year-old driver appeared with team general manager Joe Garone to answer questions about the new multiyear partnership.
"I'm very excited about the opportunity to drive the Furniture Row No. 78 for Joe and (team owner) Barney (Visser)," said Truex, who signed his new contract Thursday night. "I've really been impressed with their organization. Obviously, I think everybody here has been impressed with what they have accomplished this year, being a single-car team based out of Denver.
"I think that anybody in this garage area will tell you it's been really amazing to watch them progress. Everybody has been impressed with their competition program, the way their cars have ran this year, the speed that they've had. I'm looking forward, obviously, to being a part of that equation."
Signing with Furniture Row is a serendipitous turn of events for Truex, who had plenty of anxious moments after the organization for which he has driven for four seasons, Michael Waltrip Racing, was penalized severely for manipulating the outcome of the final regular-season race Sept. 7 at Richmond.
The penalties knocked Truex out of a Chase spot he thought he had earned and ultimately led to the departure of NAPA, Truex's primary sponsor at MWR. Without the reported $16-million annual backing from NAPA, Truex had to pursue opportunities with other organizations.
Furniture Row simultaneously was looking for a replacement for Busch, who will drive for Stewart-Haas Racing next year. Busch qualified for the Chase this year, putting Furniture Row into NASCAR's playoff for the first time in the organization's history.
"I was terrified," Truex said of his reaction to learning NAPA was leaving MWR. "My first thought was 'What am I going to do next year?' Here it is September. Everybody's got their deals done for next year. I pretty much said 'Oh Crap.'
"It was like getting punched in the face. You didn't see it coming. It came out of nowhere. Obviously, I kind of saw it coming after what all went down (at Richmond). Right away, it was 'Uh, oh, this is bad. This could be real bad.'"
Fortunately for Truex, who broke a six-year winless streak when he collected his second career NASCAR Sprint Cup victory at Sonoma in June, Furniture Row exercised patience in its driver search.
"We were looking at every driver that was available, and some that you would bring up out of the other series that are ready to come up, or maybe even not quite ready yet," Garone said. "We were looking at all of those, and we were really trying to take our time.
"It's a balance. We're also trying to compete -- make the Chase, compete in the Chase. We don't want to upset that. It was really a struggle to keep ourselves patient and just pray for the right opportunity to come along. And then, the right opportunity comes along."
NO MIND GAMES
There's a history of gamesmanship in the Chase, whether it was Denny Hamlin caught in a crossfire between Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson in 2010 or Tony Stewart trying to get under Carl Edwards' skin in 2011.
Though Johnson and Matt Kenseth are tied for the series lead with three races left in the Chase, don't expect Kenseth to try to get an edge on the five-time champion this year with anything other than speed on the race track -- even if Johnson resorts to mind games.
"It might change from his end if we're still in it all the way to the end, but I'm just not really into all the head games," Kenseth said Fridaybefore opening NASCAR Sprint Cup practice at Texas. "I'm not smart enough to be in the head games and insults and some of the stuff we've seen happen over the last few years. My brain is over capacity already with trying to figure out how to make my race car fast enough to be the best.
"They always say, if you want to be the man, you have to beat the man and he (Johnson) has always definitely been the man. (I'm) really just trying to concentrate on that and trying to figure out how to make our car fast enough to go out and be able to compete with not only him, but the rest of the field each and every week."
It was a whirlwind week for Darrell Wallace Jr. after the 20-year-old collected his first career victory in Saturday's Kroger 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway.
Wallace, the second African-American driver to win a race in one of NASCAR's top three touring series, spent his days away from the track doing media and entertainment appearances. One of the highlights was Skyping with Arsenio Hall on the television show "Arsenio."
Wallace, however, wasn't exactly star-struck. He wasn't sure who Arsenio Hall is, until he saw the TV host on the other end of the video conversation. "I'm horrible with faces and names, and they're like, 'Arsenio Hall -- that's huge,'" Wallace said Friday at Texas. "I'm like, 'Sure, whoever that is.' Then the minute I saw him I was like, 'Oh, OK, now I know who he is.' That was pretty cool.
"(But) I'd say the coolest thing that happened was (supermodel) Tyra Banks followed me on Twitter."