Dave Ferroni was the public relations director for the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, so he is familiar with underdog stories and unlikely championships.

Following Lake Placid, Ferroni took a job as the publicist for Brainerd International Raceway. That got him in P.R. for NHRA drag racing teams and then Cup racing in NASCAR. McDonald’s was his client for a number of years.

Known to all as “Foof,’’ he did the P.R. for Bill Elliott’s team. “I did the news release announcing the birth of Bill’s son, a baby named Chase,’’ Ferroni said.

Chase Elliott is now a 21-year-old of growing popularity in NASCAR’s top series, now named the Monster Energy Cup. Elliott did some wiping out with Denny Hamlin in the closing races of the playoffs, eliminating both from reaching the final four that will decide the title Sunday in Homestead, Fla.

Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch are all former Cup champions. And then there is Ferroni’s man, Martin Truex Jr., from Furniture Row Racing.

“Martin’s first year with us was 2014, and he led one lap all year,’’ Ferroni said. “This year, he has led 2,175 laps, the most in the series.’’

Truex has set the pace with seven wins and 25 top-10s. This comes from a racing team based in an obscure warehouse in Denver, while the traditional powerhouse teams reside in emblazoned shops near Charlotte, N.C.

Barney Visser owned Furniture Row, a national chain of furniture stores. He started racing as a hobby at Colorado National Speedway, where Jerry Robertson was a driver. They formed an overmatched team for the secondary Busch Series in 2005.

There were numerous reversals and changes in drivers. Ferroni did some work for Visser and then started full-time in 2012.

Now, these long shots from Denver go into Sunday with Truex after his eighth win of 2017 on a 1.5-mile track and a Cup title.

Dave Ferroni’s hopeful and ready for it. He has handled P.R. for successful underdogs stories previously.

Plus three

Other notes from the Martin Truex Jr. team:

• Barney Visser, 68, the founder and owner of Furniture Row Racing, will miss Sunday’s race as he recovers from a heart attack suffered two weeks ago.

• Jim Watson, 55, a crewman for Truex's No. 78 car, suffered a fatal heart attack before last month’s race in Kansas City. Truex won the next day.

• Cole Prean took over as crew chief in 2015. He’s a hot ticket in Cup racing, but he’s a Canadian who is said to love skiing, hockey and Denver in general.

Read Patrick s blog at startribune.com/patrick. E-mail him at preusse@startribune.com.

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