After a rough start to the beginning of Speedweeks, Martin Truex, Jr. and his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team appeared to be snake bitten, but on Sunday, both Truex and his team earned some redemption with their runner-up finish in the Daytona 500.
Starting at the rear of the field in a backup car, Truex methodically worked his way through the field, moving into the top-five by lap 30, where he would remain for the remainder of the race. Falling in behind his adopted teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing, who Truex’s Furniture Row team has a technical alliance with, he bided his time behind race leader Matt Kenseth as the laps wound down.
As Truex waited to make his move, Kenseth moved high to block his charging teammate Denny Hamlin on the final lap, but missed, allowing Hamlin to move up beside Truex’s car as they stormed toward the finish line.
Though it looked like Truex may have had the advantage coming down to the line, Hamlin was able to side draft Truex’s No. 78 car to pull ahead just as they crossed the finish line, winning the race by a margin of .011 seconds, the closest Daytona 500 finish ever.
“You know, it was a great day for our team. It was our first run in a Toyota. Having Bass Pro Shops, TRACKER boats back onboard, they’ve been great supporters of my career. Proud of how we worked together with the JGR guys. That was important for us to kick off the year, try to start to form that relationship, showing those guys they could trust us, that we’re going to be a strong part of their team.
It was really amazing what we were able to do all day and really just control the race the way we did. First off, I’ve got to thank all those guys for allowing us to be a part of their team, especially the drivers today for working so well together and letting me be part of that.
The last lap, we were in great position behind Matt. Felt like if Matt would have stayed in front of us, maybe he would have probably held off Denny. He went up to try to block his run, Denny cut inside, made it three-wide. Just side drafted me off of turn four all the way to the line. I felt like I had enough momentum to keep him behind me. I did all the way up until that last couple feet. He just shot out that last couple inches on me right before the line.
Wish I would have crowded him up the track a little bit more late down the frontstretch. Those are split-second decisions. He came out on the right end of it today.
Like I said, proud of our effort, excited to start off the season this way. It’s been a tough season down here. Our guys worked really, really hard. I think our backup car was the best car we had. In a way, it was a blessing to get in that wreck the other day,” said Truex.
Though the finish was disappointing for Truex and his team, he noted after the race that the off-track things that he has had to go through over the past year with his girlfriend Sherry Pollex’s cancer treatment has given him a new perspective and he was able to respond to the disappointment by looking on the bright side of things.
“Two years ago I would have been sitting here with a sourpuss on my face. Today was a great day. We all want to win. This is competition. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to win.
But I realize the position I’m in, the opportunities I’m going to have this year. I’m going to have a lot more opportunities to win races. I feel like we did everything right today to put ourselves in position to win.
Sometimes things go your way, sometimes they don’t. But I’m proud of what we did today. I’m just ecstatic to have the race team I have, to have my life going the way it is. I got it all right now and having fun. That’s what it’s all about.
We’re going to race hard at Atlanta and feel like we can go there and do the same thing again, feel like we have a shot at winning. We’re going to have a lot of opportunities to win this year. I’m just excited about that and thankful for the opportunities.”
Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images