When asked if this year's Daytona 500 still lingers in his memory bank Martin Truex Jr. brushes aside his runner-up result in what turned out to be the closest finish in the race's 58-year history.
The loss to Denny Hamlin in NASCAR's biggest jewel was by one thousandth of a second. Not even the naked eye could decipher who won. In fact, the majority of the television viewers watching the season opener felt it was Truex's No 78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota that crossed the finish line first. But the electronic timing system said differently as Hamlin's Toyota edged forward to claim the victory by inches.
"If anyone wonders if that loss grates at me that is not the case," said Truex. "The only time I might think about it is when I see a photo or video of the finish."
Truex returns to the World Center of Racing for Saturday night's Coke Zero 400 at the famed 2.5-mile superspeedway. His Furniture Row Racing Toyota will once again have the primary colors of Bass Pro Shops.
"The strategy doesn't change - our plan is to once again be in position at the end to win the race," stated Truex, who turns 36 on Wednesday, June 29. “We all know the potential downfalls at these restricted-plate superspeedways. But strategies vary among teams. We have our own plan for Daytona and will stick with it until something tells us that we need to alter the plan.”
Since the season-opening Daytona 500 Truex has been a steady performer, running up front and pocketing a dominating victory in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He is the Sprint Cup Series lap leader at 819 and has finished on the lead lap in 15 of the 16 races, including the past 11. He has completed all but one lap this season – 4773 of 4774. His season-starting average is 10.2 and finishing average is 11.6.
Truex is coming off a fifth-place finish at the Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway road course where he led the field with a 4.2 average running position.
“When you have good cars to drive on a weekly basis that means you’re having a lot of fun and that is sure the case with our Furniture Row Racing team,” said Truex. “Give credit to the guys back at our home shop in Denver (Colorado) and to all the guys who travel. Cole (Pearn, crew chief) and his engineering staff have been awesome all year.”
No question, Truex has enjoyed more upside than downside as the season gets close to the halfway mark. But seeing some victories slip away makes him even more determined.
“We have been in position to win a number of races this season,” noted Truex. “We had the best car but didn’t close the deal.”
The one race that Truex definitely closed the deal was his victory on Memorial Day weekend at Charlotte. He dominated the longest race of the year from start to finish. He sat on the pole and went on to lead 392 of 400 laps for 588 miles. The number of miles led set a NASCAR record.
“Having one win under your belt makes the season to date a little less stressful,” said Truex. “There’s nothing worse than to keep knocking at the door and not have much to show for it.”
Truex has one top five, three top 10s, one pole and 65 laps led in 22 career Sprint Cup starts at Daytona International Speedway,