Juan Pablo Montoya's announcement of leaving NASCAR and going back to IndyCar Monday has left a huge hole at Furniture Row Racing. The team has been searching for a driver since Kurt Busch has left to go to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014. Montoya was considered by many people as the leading candidate for the opening at Furniture Row Racing but the Colombian announced he would move to Indycar with Penske Racing in 2014.
For Furniture Row Racing the possibilities are endless.
One logical option for the team is Jeff Burton. Burton is leaving Richard Childress Racing at the end of the 2013 season and is in search of a ride for 2014. All signs point towards Burton retiring after the 2014 season, but he wanted to finish out his contract at RCR and teaming up with Furniture Row Racing could do that. The 46-year-old South Boston, Virginia native would only be a one year deal with the team so it would be interesting to see if the team would move in that direction.
A few weeks ago Fox Sports reporter Wendy Venturrini reported that there were some young drivers that Furniture Row Racing was considering for the ride, if Montoya was not available. Now that that is the case those names appear to be in play right now. Ryan Blaney, Ryan Truex and Michael McDowell were all mentioned by Venturrini as possible replacements for Busch. Blaney is currently in his first full season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for Brad Keselowski Racing. He is also on a developmental contract for Penske Racing. Meanwhile, Truex recently signed a similar deal with Richard Petty Motorsports earlier in the 2013 season. Truex has not run a race for RPM but has made two Cup starts in 2013 for Phoenix Racing and is scheduled to run at least one more race (Dover) for the organization.
Michael McDowell is an interesting deal as well. The rumor about the three young drivers also came in the midst of rumors that the organization was headed towards Toyota in 2014. There was no clear evidence of that and of exactly who the team would align with but it's all moot as Furniture Row Racing announced they are keeping their alliance with Richard Childress Racing and Chevrolet for 2014. McDowell has had an association with Joe Gibbs Racing in the past few seasons and that's what could have fueled that fire. McDowell has been running in the Cup Series since the 2007 season when he started with Michael Waltrip Racing. He has been mostly a start and park driver over the seasons, however, he is still 28-years-old and could be a factor for the ride.
Another young driver who could be a factor is David Ragan. Ragan is a recent winner on the Cup circuit, winning at Talladega Superspeedway in April. He had run five seasons at Roush Fenway Racing and struggled badly for three of those seasons. For the last two seasons he has been running for Front Row Motorsports. He has two career cup victories and is one of the nicest drivers on the circuit, which means he won't embarrass the team. Ragan may be a long shot for this ride but he is still a possibility.
Regan Smith is also a driver to watch for. Smith had driven for the team for four seasons prior to the 2013 season. Smith gave the organization their only career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory at Darlington Raceway on Mother's Day weekend in 2011. He currently runs in the NASCAR Nationwide Series for JR Motorsports, trying to win his first series championship in that division. Would Smith give up that ride for another shot at Furniture Row Racing? That remains to be seen.
The #78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet is a very interesting piece of the silly season puzzle because the team could go in any direction. They could go with a veteran like Jeff Burton or with a young driver they can help build the program around. It should be interesting to see how it plays out in the next few weeks.
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