CONCORD, N.C. — Barney Visser is known for owning a chain of furniture stores, the one that he has splashed on the hood and side of his race cars since entering the Sprint Cup Series in 2005.
But he also owns a machine shop that is unlike most. The shop serves as a mix of an engineer’s lab and playground, designing and creating parts and pieces for the aerospace industry as much as the racing industry.
Visser isn’t a gearhead or anything. But he knows such a shop could at some point make money. And it certainly can help cars go fast.
The shop was one reason that attracted Furniture Row Racing to Toyota and one reason that the organization has had fast cars for the past four years. If any pieces developed in that shop were on Martin Truex Jr.‘s. car Sunday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, then Visser Precision machines are probably churning out more parts and pieces on this holiday Monday to match one of the most dominant cars NASCAR has seen.
Truex led a NASCAR-record 588 miles on his way to capturing the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway in a butt-kicking for the ages. Truex led all but eight of the 400 laps.
As the Furniture Row Racing team celebrated the win, Visser at first stood in the back of Victory Lane, almost looking like he didn’t know what to do. But that should be expected — he missed the organization’s first two trips to Victory Lane, the first in May 2011 with Regan Smith at Darlington Raceway and the second nearly a year ago with Truex at Pocono Raceway.
“It’s finally time to be here,” Visser said. “I’ve experienced [the wins] at home. This is great. I could do this every week.”
Yes, Visser is a man of few words, preferring to remain behind the scenes. He isn’t a member of the Race Team Alliance of owners; Visser prefers to do things his own way and doesn’t want to be aligned with his competition. He doesn’t want anyone setting a value for his team or telling him how to spend his money.
His team is based in Denver — in a nondescript building with no sign. Inside, there is not a lot of flash but just substance with plenty of cars and tools and everything one needs to compete at the Sprint Cup level, but without the glitz of trying to outdo the neighboring shop down the street to impress mechanics and sponsors.
He scoffs at spending any money on things that don’t help his cars go fast. He doesn’t speak marketing to his employees; he just wants to know what is the latest new piece they have on the car.
That is why his team made a seamless transition from Chevrolet to Toyota in the offseason, going from an affiliate of Richard Childress Racing to an affiliate of Joe Gibbs Racing. The organization has used a mix of its own bodies and JGR bodies this year as it works to build its fleet.
The team didn’t miss a beat from last year, when Truex finished fourth in the standings. Truex should have won this season before Sunday. He led 141 laps at Texas but didn’t pit late in the race, settling for sixth. He led 172 laps three weeks ago at Kansas but had a bolt break that held a brake mount, causing a loose wheel and relegating him to 14th. He led 47 laps two weeks ago at Dover but got caught up in a wreck when Jimmie Johnson‘s car stuck in gear.
The victory Sunday didn’t just mark Truex’s fourth in 382 career starts; it was Visser’s third in 320 career starts.
“It relieves any curse of Barney not being at the race track,” said David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development. “He took a chance on Toyota. Arguably he was crazy to do that. He was running so well with his other partnership.
“We’re just so happy for him. … What a great story.”
No one thought of Visser being atop the pit box as a curse. But Truex thought he had to wait until the final moments of Sunday’s race before he knew the racing gods wanted him to win this one.
“In those moments, all you can do is focus on what you’re doing, focus on how to get through the moments and ultimately figure out what it takes to win the race,” Truex said. “You don’t really think about what’s going to happen until it happens.
“There was a few moments towards the end of the race where I was just thinking, ‘Please, I don’t want a caution,’ but you’re not really saying, ‘What the hell is going to happen this time?’ … When you see the white flag, you kind of have a finger or two crossed on the steering wheel trying to get to the end.”
Few seemed surprised that Truex had another dominant intermediate-track car. Jimmie Johnson, who has a record seven Charlotte wins, gave Truex a high-five as Truex drove by him after the race.
“They did a fantastic job of staying on top of the race track as far as adjustments,” Johnson said. “I feel great for him. … He’s been knocking on the door. He’s very well respected and we’ve all seen how close they’ve been.”
As expected, this team savored Victory Lane. It was an emotional celebration; Truex’s girlfriend Sherry Pollex is nearly two years into her battle with ovarian cancer and has been cancer-free since January. And it was emotional for people to see Visser celebrate with the team.
Mike Helton came into Victory Lane to shake Visser’s hand. So did Joe Gibbs.
“He’s jacked up, man,” Gibbs said. “He’s fired up.”
It was a little hard to tell. But those close to Visser could tell.
“It was the most excited I’ve ever seen him,” Truex said. “I’m pretty sure he even hugged me.”
Visser even appeared to enjoy the champagne spray and all those hugs.
“He really and truly treats [everyone] like family,” Truex said. “It’s really a big deal to all those guys to get to share this with him tonight.”
Truex isn’t just saying that about family. Visser offered to give Truex the last three months of 2014 off when Pollex battled cancer. Visser didn’t try to cut costs and keep his team in North Carolina between last week’s Sprint All-Star Race and the Coca-Cola 600 — he flew them home to Colorado so they could be with their families. Oh, and to spend a day finishing work on the car that won Sunday night.
Visser watched his creation set NASCAR history.
“It’s been frustrating,” Visser said. “But I’ve learned to live with the frustration. It’s been a 10-year climb. We’ve run pretty well at times.
“Racing will do that to you.”