By JEREMY FLYNN
Martin Truex Jr. made a huge splash in 2015 by being one of the most consistent and competitive racers in NASCAR’s top series. In one of his biggest years to date, Truex bagged one win, eight top-fives and an astounding 22 top-10s in 36 starts –all very impressive for being the only wheel-man for the single car, independent Furniture Row Racing. But, will the change to Toyota shake things up for the No. 78 camp in 2016?
The transition could be a relatively smooth one as Joe Gibbs Racing promises to ease some bumps for Furniture Row by provided technical support and research for the new venture. This is nothing new, but the formula does not provide guaranteed success. Hendrick Motorsports supports the successful Stewart-Haas Racing and the moderately competitive Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. But other smaller shops, such as HScott Motorsports, struggle to compete, despite the partnership.
The driver truly matters in this equation, but we have all seen how the slightest change can throw off team chemistry. The adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” surely applies to the hyper-competitive sport of NASCAR. Changing manufacturer affiliation means changing R & D and engineering, leaving the successful technological relationship with Richard Childress Racing behind. Risky? Absolutely. Only time will tell, but Truex was able to prove in 2015 that the little guy can still compete in the world of corporate racing.
I would be nervous for 2016. Teams with multi-car investments continue to struggle to find consistency and the ability to be competitive each week. With the likes of Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart all having lackluster years, I would be happy with a fourth place Chase finish for an independent team. My take — change is not the best solution for Furniture Row Racing to win in 2016. They already learned how to do so in 2015. I hope I am wrong.