By David Morgan, NASCAR Writer
After his career best points finish to end the 2015 season, Martin Truex, Jr. and his Furniture Row Racing team were in high spirits heading into Daytona for the 58th running of the Daytona 500. Thus far in Speedweeks, the single car operation based out of Colorado has had a rough go of things.
The trouble for Truex began with last Saturday’s Sprint Unlimited, where he had his No. 78 car near the front of the field as the laps were winding down. As the field stormed into Turn 1 on the final lap, a wreck broke out just ahead of Truex and he was swept up in it, destroying his Toyota Camry, and leaving him with a 13th place finish on the night.
“It’s not that hard if you don’t run into people – if you don’t try to put your car where there’s not enough room for it. That’s what causes accidents, so we’ve seen a lot of guys make mistakes tonight. We got our car destroyed on the last lap because somebody made a mistake and the racing like that is frustrating, but it is what it is. It’s a product of this racing, so I’m just frustrated we could never get near the front tonight. We had one opportunity at one point in time. We just about got clear of one car we needed to clear to really have a shot at getting to the very front and running up there. It seems like once you get there, you can kind of stay there. We were able to do that last year. It’s just hard in the middle of the pack to make any ground. Every time you try to make a move, you go backwards. It’s tricky, but it’s just frustrating to tear up cars for no reason,” said Truex after the race.
As Sunday rolled around, the Furniture Row team hoped to have better luck with their primary Daytona 500 car during qualifying, but bad luck struck once again. The team had gotten their car through pre-qualifying inspection without any issues, but as the car was being pushed down the grid to take their place in line to make their qualifying run, NASCAR did not like something they saw in the roof flap and made the team take their car back to the garage to remedy the problem. However, the team had been put on a five minute clock since it was their turn to make a qualifying run and they ran out of time, never making a timed lap on track.
“They didn’t like the way it was landing when it went down. I don’t know – it was that way the whole way down pit road. I’m not sure what the problem was, it could have been easily fixed but either way they decided to put it on the five minute clock when we were down there at the end and I don’t know why we had to run it back here because there was no way we were gonna get back here and get back out in time. But, whatever, we will roll on and see what they decide to do. Too bad. I thought we had a really good car and good speed in it so it would’ve been nice to see what we could’ve run at least but either way we’ll move on and hopefully have a good rest of Speed Weeks,” said Cole Pearn, crew chief for the No. 78 team.
Having to start at the rear of the second Can-Am Duel on Thursday night, Truex was looking for redemption for his issues the weekend before, but instead the hits just kept on coming for Furniture Row.
Like in the Sprint Unlimited, Truex was running in fifth place in the closing laps of the race, when once again, Turn 1 was calamity corner. As Jimmie Johnson spun in front of Truex, the door closed in front of him, leaving him nowhere to go but right into the side of Johnson’s No. 48 car. Once Johnson and Truex had collected each other, Matt Kenseth plowed into the rear of Truex’s car, causing even more damage to his No. 78 car. The damage was too severe to repair before Sunday, so Truex will be forced to a backup car for the Daytona 500, where he hopes his luck will change.
“Just the wrong place at the wrong time. Pretty much exactly like what happened Saturday night to us – just riding along there, you know? Take the white in pretty decent spot and just they started wrecking in front of me, so there’s not much you can do, but disappointed obviously. I thought our car was really good tonight. That was really the first that we had really done some serious racing and drafting and I was really pretty happy with it, so worked our way up through there and was sitting in a pretty decent spot towards the end – was looking like we had a shot at getting another couple spots there and just mayhem. Unfortunate to be in the wrong place, wrong time again and on the last lap, but hopefully we have a little bit better luck on Sunday,” said Truex.
Photo: Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images