What happened: 5-hour Energy, one of the main sponsors for Martin Truex Jr. at Furniture Row Racing, announced it would be leaving the team — and the sport — at the end of this season in what it termed a “business decision.” 5-hour joined Truex’s No. 78 this year after being the full-season sponsor on Erik Jones’ No. 77 last year. Prior to that, 5-hour was linked with Clint Bowyer during his time at Michael Waltrip Racing and HScott Motorsports (2012-16).
What it means: Even winning at a frequent rate doesn’t ensure continued sponsorship anymore. Truex is coming off a championship season and has been one of the “Big Three” drivers with four wins already this year. And yet, for whatever reason, 5-hour decided it was time to spend its marketing dollars somewhere other than NASCAR. That’s a discouraging sign, especially since Monster won’t be the Cup Series title sponsor for much longer and thus would have freed up 5-hour to go wherever it wanted.
News value (scale of 1-10): Seven, for a combination of reasons. Truex is a big-name driver losing a big-name sponsor, for one. But it’s also newsworthy that yet another major sponsor is departing from NASCAR after spending a couple hundred million dollars in the sport over seven seasons at the Cup level. It’s yet another punch in the gut for those hoping NASCAR’s slide will end soon.
Three questions: Can Furniture Row find a replacement, or will team owner Barney Visser have to put his company on the hood again? Does this end the speculation Furniture Row could re-expand to a second car next season? What does it mean for NASCAR when a company stops spending its money altogether instead of just staying involved at a reduced commitment level?