Joe Gibbs Racing signs Martin Truex Jr., crew chief Cole Pearn for 2019 season

NASCAR


Defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. will replace Daniel Suarez in the No. 19 car starting next season, Joe Gibbs Racing confirmed Wednesday.

Truex needed a new place to race after Furniture Row Racing announced Sept. 4 that it would shut down after the 2018 season. He has four victories this year and sits in third in the points standings going into the final playoff elimination race Sunday before the title is determined Nov. 18.

He was quickly pegged to go to Joe Gibbs Racing and, while all parties have danced around questions for two months, it was clear he would end up replacing Suarez.

Truex will be joined at JGR by his crew chief, Cole Pearn, as they remain in the Toyota camp. They have combined for 16 of their 17 wins over the last three seasons.

“I’m really excited to have the opportunity to join Joe Gibbs Racing,” Truex said in a statement. “Obviously to be able to make this transition and still be able to work alongside Cole is something that was very important to me.

“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.”

The change leaves Suarez looking for another ride. He removed Joe Gibbs Racing from his Twitter bio seven weeks ago and has remained optimistic he would land a ride for the 2019 season.

Suarez has been negotiating with Stewart-Haas Racing to replace Kurt Busch, who appears headed to Chip Ganassi Racing.

“I don’t really have anything good to say,” Suarez said in September when asked about leaving JGR. “When you don’t have anything good to say, it’s better not to say anything.”

Sponsorship was not announced for Truex, although Furniture Row Racing owner Barney Visser has indicated that Bass Pro Shops would be following Truex.

Truex, 38, has 19 career Cup wins in 475 career starts. He has raced for primarily for four different organizations — Dale Earnhardt Inc., which when it folded it merged with Chip Ganassi Racing, and then left for Michael Waltrip Racing (now closed) and Furniture Row.

A two-time champion in what is now the Xfinity Series as well as the 2017 Cup champion, Truex gives JGR another title contender to go along with Kyle Busch. Denny Hamlin has been a championship-caliber threat, and Erik Jones is considered one of the top young talents in the series.

“Any time you have an opportunity to bring two people of this caliber into your organization, it’s certainly an exciting time,” JGR owner Joe Gibbs said in a news release about Truex and Pearn. “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.”

Suarez, 26, is considered a young talent who needs more experience. Thrust into Cup racing a year earlier than expected when Carl Edwards abruptly retired in January 2017, Suarez finished 20th in the points as a rookie and sits 20th in the standings this season.

“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.”

The first full-time Cup driver from Mexico, Suarez — the 2016 Xfinity Series champion — has four career top-five Cup finishes in 70 starts.

“I’m sure good things will come our way,” Suarez said in September. “I was one of those drivers that I’ve just been working very hard and feel like I’m doing my job right.

“This year has been definitely disappointing. The way things have worked out lately is very disappointing for a lot of people.”



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