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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. will drive for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2019, giving the longtime team owner a powerful four-car operation with multiple Monster Energy Series champions.
Truex is leaving Furniture Row Racing after five seasons with the Denver, Colorado-based No. 78 organization. He’ll replace Daniel Suarez on the No. 19 team, bringing crew chief Cole Pearn along with him. Furniture Row announced in August it would shutter its operations at the end of the season, paving the way for Truex Jr. to become a marquee free agent.
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“Anytime you have an opportunity to bring two people of this caliber into your organization, it’s certainly an exciting time,” said Joe Gibbs, owner of Joe Gibbs Racing, in a team release. “They obviously have developed a chemistry that has led to tremendous success, including a championship. We’ve gotten to know them well over the past few years through the alliance and having been part of the Toyota family. They both make us stronger as an organization.”
JGR indicated that sponsorship plans for next season were still in progress and would be announced at a later date.
Truex, 38, has four wins and four Busch Pole Awards this year for Furniture Row, which operates in partnership with JGR. His performance has placed him among the championship contenders heading into the Round of 8 finale this weekend at ISM Raceway in Phoenix.
Truex will be Kyle Busch’s teammate in 2019, giving JGR a powerful 1-2 punch with two of the most recent Monster Energy Series champions. Erik Jones and Denny Hamlin complete the four-driver roster at JGR.
All but two of Truex’s 19 Monster Energy Series wins have come with Furniture Row and team owner Barney Visser. The Furniture Row Racing owner issued a statement appreciative of Truex and Pearn’s efforts.
“I want to personally thank Martin and Cole for their contributions in making Furniture Row Racing a championship-caliber team,” Visser said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that they will continue to be a winning driver/crew chief combination with Joe Gibbs Racing. They are outstanding representatives for NASCAR and I am proud to have been associated with them. But before Martin and Cole depart for a new endeavor we still have two races remaining, and hopefully we will be celebrating another championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway.”
Pearn has been with Truex for all 17 of his Furniture Row victories, and the driver-crew chief pairing will remain intact next season.
“Obviously to be able to make this transition and still be able to work alongside Cole is something that was very important to me,” Truex said in a release provided by the team. “There is also a real comfort level working with the JGR team and I wanted to stay in the Toyota family. We still have big goals for the remainder of this season, but it’s nice to know what we will be doing in 2019.”
Truex marched to his first title in NASCAR’s top division in 2017 by winning eight races, including the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He is also a two-time champion in what is now called the Xfinity Series, going back-to-back in 2004-05.
Suarez’s tenure with Joe Gibbs Racing will end after two seasons in NASCAR’s top division. The Mexican-born driver made the transition to the Monster Energy Series after Carl Edwards’ departure in January 2017, moving up after claiming the Xfinity Series championship for JGR the previous season.
Suarez climbed the NASCAR ladder through the Toyota Racing system and is now one of the sport’s top free agents for 2019. Gibbs, who oversaw much of his stock-car racing development, wished him well in a statement from the team.
“We really appreciate everything Daniel has done for Joe Gibbs Racing over these past several years,” Gibbs said. “He has made the most of every opportunity from winning the championship in the Xfinity Series to making the jump into the Cup Series for us. We look forward to hearing about his plans going forward and know he continues to have a bright future in our sport.”