Barney Visser, a Vietnam veteran, enjoys operating his Furniture Row Racing team from its shop in Denver. "Not everybody at the highest level (of NASCAR) wants to live in North Carolina."
(John Leyba, The Denver Post
Denver native and Cherry Hills resident Barney Visser became passionate about stock-car racing in 2004. Today he is considered a NASCAR maverick. He owns the Denver-based Furniture Row chain and Denver's Furniture Row Racing.
Visser, 59, is going against the grain when it comes to racing. Almost every NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team is based in North Carolina. Furniture Row Racing commutes to races from its massive shop in northeast Denver. Visser's third-year Cup team — driven by series veteran Joe Nemechek — is having its best season. Nemechek has made 10-of-13 races.
Visser, who graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in 1967 and then volunteered to serve 11 months in Vietnam, returned from the war and founded Big Sur Waterbeds, and later Denver Mattress, Sofa Mart, Oak Express and Bedroom Expressions. He took time Wednesday to talk with Denver Post motorsports writer Mike Chambers:
Q: As a kid, did you follow racing?
A: Never. No interest. I started to retire a few years ago and I wanted a hobby, but I didn't like golf. So I bought a car and started playing around with it, myself driving, up at (Colorado National Speedway) about four years ago. I ran into people, ran into Jerry Robertson, and started talking about putting a Busch team together. I flew back to North Carolina and actually picked up some cars from Joe Nemechek.
Q: What's your relationship with the bigwig NASCAR owners like Joe Gibbs, Rick Hendrick and Richard Childress?
A: Not much. I've never talked with Joe Gibbs, but have spoken to his kid, J.D., a couple times for a few minutes. . . . I'll just say that I don't hang out in those circles.
Q: How long have you been in the furniture business?
A: We started manufacturing the big poof pillows, and that's how it got started. We had eight stores called Pillow Kingdom, and in 1977 we started our first waterbed store, which was really successful, so we turned our whole business to waterbeds. That was Big Sur, and I think we got up to about 85 stores in the mid-'80s.
Q: Still no plans to move the team where the action is?
A: No. Not everybody at the highest level wants to live in North Carolina. They want to live here. I think we're going to do just fine.
Q: I know there are a lot of racing fans that would love to tour your race shop. How do they go about that?
A: They're welcome between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Thursdays. But they should call first: 303-322-2008.
Q: Nemechek has made 10-of-13 races, and sat on the pole at Talladega. Are you happy with how you're running?
A: I certainly want things to go better. We're not just here to show up and run. But I look at the kind of employees we're attracting, and I'm really happy about that. But I sure want to be running better.
Q: Any chance we'll see a young Colorado driver get a chance with your team?
A: Right now we've got to put a guy behind the wheel that's been to every track before. I think (Arvada's) Jerry Robertson is as good as anybody out there, but we have to have a guy (with experience).
Mike Chambers: 303-954-1357 or email@example.com
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Barney Visser's favorite books:
1. "What's So Amazing About Grace?"
2. "The Return of the Prodigal Son"
3. "A Grace Disguised"
4. "The Ragamuffin Gospel"
5. Almost anything by Brennan Manning or Henri Nouwen