By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It was a Valentine’s Day heartbreak for Ryan Truex and the entire Tommy Baldwin Racing No. 71 Chevrolet team, as they failed to beat Parker Kligerman in the first Gander RV Duel Race Thursday, which would’ve been Truex’s first Daytona 500, and was one of two cars that failed to make the race.
“I mentally prepared to not make it, just so the letdown wasn’t so big,” Truex on how handling missing the show. “I’ve missed this race before, so I know how it feels.”
Before making his only pit stop of the race, Truex was ahead of him until his brace from the windshield broke, it went downhill and gained a lot of drag which didn’t benefit his cause of making the race.
“Once that happened, I felt like my car got pretty draggy,” Truex on the damaged part. “It’s just hard to suck up like I needed to. It’s kind of a freak deal, but it is what it is.”
From there, Truex needed help from other competitors, and one driver who played a huge factor into the finish was Kyle Busch, who was turned around by Jimmie Johnson near the halfway point of the race.
Late in the going, Busch had lost the draft, which put the hungry warriors in fascinating position of making pivotal moves and had a nice battle amongst each other as the lead pack pulled away.
“It worked out perfectly where all three of us were on our own, riding around,” said Truex. “Kyle lost the lead draft that he came back to our draft and was able to get to Parker’s bumper and gave him that big push to clear the No. 31 (Tyler Reddick).”
While it helped Truex at first, there was a caveat. If Kligerman backed up from Busch, and Reddick fails to defend his position, Truex’s fate would’ve been sealed. That caveat came into fruition as Reddick’s defense backfired, giving Kligerman the much needed momentum to lock himself in the Daytona 500 after crossing the line in 12th, while Truex wound up in 14th.
“I tried to drive the No. 18 away from Parker as much as I could, and tried to block, and he just got through my quarter (panel),” Truex explained. “Once Kyle got to Parker, Parker did the right thing. He backed up to him and got a push, and the No. 31 just couldn’t defend it. That was just too big of a run, it kind of sucks it worked out like that. I tried to push the No. 31 as hard as I could.”
After getting out of his car, Kligerman approached Truex to comfort him on the unfortunate situation, which meant a lot to him as he’s now 0-for-2 in Daytona 500 attempts.
Before Brendan Gaughan made the field by beating Joey Gase in Duel Race No. 2, Truex had a long shot of making the “Great American Race,” as Casey Mears, who’s already in the field thanks to his qualifying effort, needed to beat Gaughan for him to make the race. When asked about the scenario, Truex simply put it that he wasn’t going to watch the second race.
“I’m not going to watch. I don’t want to stress myself with that,” said Truex. “I couldn’t get in the race here and it kind of sucks that I have to worry about what somebody else does to make it in. If they tell me I’m in, that’ll be great, but I’m not expecting that right now.”
What made the agony more gutted was TBR’s efforts of coming back to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for the first time in two seasons, and for Truex, it’s unfortunate and so far is the only scheduled race he has in the series.
“It sucks for a team like this that hasn’t been racing in a while,” Truex told Motorsports Tribune. “To come back here and put everything into it, we had a great RCR chassis and ECR engine, and did everything right. They gave me a car that drove well, but just circumstances didn’t work in our favor.”
Making the Daytona 500 remains a dream for Truex, and it’s onto his scheduled races with JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series, hoping that someday another opportunity would rise again and get another crack of trying to make the “Great American Race.”