Despite driving a damaged race car, Martin Truex Jr. put himself in position to win Sunday’s Daytona 500.
He took the lead with two laps remaining, but then his position started to go in the wrong direction. Truex got shuffled out of line, and on the final lap, his car ran out of fuel, leaving him with a 13th-place finish in the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series season opener.
“We did what we wanted to do and that was to put ourselves in position to have a shot at winning this race,” said Truex. "We came close but didn’t get it done in the end. But considering where we came from it was a good effort that should have had a better finish.”
After starting in the back of the field, Truex found his way to front. But on a lap 57 pit stop a flying lug nut got lodged inside the wheel forcing Truex to make a return trip to pit road. A few laps later he fell a lap down and did not get back on the lead lap until Lap 120.
Eight laps later Truex’s No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota suffered right front damage as a result of a multicar accident on the 2.5-mile tri-oval. He brought the car down pit road as his Furniture Row Racing crew repaired the damage the best they could under NASCAR’s new five-minute time limit.
From that point on, Truex avoided a number of multicar wrecks and even made a miraculous save from spinning out with 44 laps remaining.
“We sure had a roller coaster Daytona 500,” said Truex. “Since our position might have appeared to be bleak early in the race, we kept fighting to the end with a damaged race car that was a handful to drive.”
Truex moved into second place on Lap 180 and held that spot until he took the lead on Lap 198 of 200.
“I am disappointed right now, but I guess it could have been better and could have been worse,” noted Truex. “But when you’re so close as we were last year with a runner-up finish there’s a stinging feeling. I am sure it will pass and we’ll get ready for next week’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.”