Member of The Press sports staff since 1986, starting my 25th season as The Press Eagles' beat writer. Also cover boxing, MMA, golf, high school sports and everything else.

NASCAR-Championship Race Auto Racing

Whenever Martin Truex Jr. wins a race, the members of the Furniture Row Racing team gather at his luxury motorcoach to celebrate.

Win or lose, they will join him there again after Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The beers will be flowing.

So will the tears.

“It’s definitely going to be emotional for me and all of us,” Truex said Thursday in a phone interview from Florida.

Truex, who grew up in Stafford Township, will be driving Furniture Row’s gleaming, black, No. 78 Toyota Camry for the final time.

Team owner Barney Visser was forced to fold the Denver-based team after one of its primary sponsors, 5-Hour Energy, decided to end its relationship with NASCAR after this season, and another sponsor could not be found.

“I am sad not to be able to continue,” Visser said in a statement. “I am going to miss the guys for sure, miss this whole thing. I don’t know what it’s going to feel like exactly when it’s over. I just don’t know how emotional it will be. I am afraid it will be enormous. We’ll see, just have to live through it.”

It marks the end of a unique, special relationship between a racing team that defied tradition and a driver who was willing to take a gamble.

Most NASCAR teams are filled with guys who speak with Southern drawls. The vast majority are based in Charlotte, North Carolina, and have posh garages. Visser is the first owner to base a team in a town where you can see your breath in the morning and need an ice scraper for your windshield.

Truex, 38, also bucks tradition. The 1998 Southern Regional High School graduate cut his teeth at New Egypt Speedway and Wall Stadium, following the path of father Martin Sr. and uncle Barney. During his junior and senior years at Southern, he worked on one of his father’s clam boats.

Once they joined forces in 2014, however, Truex and Furniture Row made history, with Truex winning eight races in 2017, including the Ford Ecoboost 400 at Homestead last November to win the championship.

This season, Truex has won four times, stretching his career victory total to 19. Seventeen were earned with Furniture Row.

Together, they broke barriers.

What they were able to accomplish would be akin to someone from Florida winning an Olympic medal in skiing, or an Oklahoma resident winning a surfing championship.

“We were able to accomplish everything we want to do,” Truex said. “And then some.”

Starting next season, Truex and crew chief Cole Pearn will be moving to Joe Gibbs Racing, where Truex will be racing in the No. 19 Toyota.

But there’s one more race first.

Furniture Row Racing posted a video on its Twitter feed Wednesday that showed the team loading the No. 78 into its trailer for the last time for the drive from Denver to Miami.

There will be no return trip.

“It’s very tough to see this come to an end,” Truex said.

If all goes well, the last lap Sunday will end with a checkered flag, a celebratory spinout, and another championship.

Either way, it’s been a heck of a ride.

David Weinberg’s Extra Points column appears Wednesdays and Sundays in The Press.

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