The 2016 Great American Race was indeed historic. Truex had a slight lead as he and Denny Hamlin were heading to the checkered flag. But when the two Toyota Camrys approached the finish line Hamlin squeaked by Truex in the closest finish in the 58-year history of the Daytona 500. Hamlin’s margin of victory over Truex was by a mere (0.01) one- hundredth of a second.
“I’ve been asked many times about that finish and from my standpoint I like to think of it as being the closest second-place finisher in the history of the 500,” noted Truex.
The disheartening loss only added to Truex’s confidence, who went on to enjoy his best statistical season since joining the NASCAR Cup Series full time in 2006. He captured four wins, claimed five poles, ranked No. 1 in laps led at 1,809 and qualified for the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
Truex and his No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota are back at Daytona International Speedway for another attempt to win NASCAR’s biggest race, scheduled for Sunday on FOX network, 2 p.m. ET.
“Our Furniture Row Racing team has always built fast superspeedway cars and I feel our Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER boats Toyota will once again be strong,” said Truex, who scored two of his three career top 10s in the 500 the past two years. “You have to find a way to put yourself in position at the end to at least have a shot at winning. We’ll go after it, no doubt about that, and hopefully we’ll be there again battling for the win.”
NASCAR’s new season-long race format will change the strategy early in the 500. The race will now consist of three segments of 60, 60 and 80 laps. In each of the first two segments drivers finishing in the top-10 will receive championship points (10 to 1) plus the winner will receive one playoff point. The overall race winner will also receive 40 championship points and five playoff points. The playoff points accumulated during the season will carry through the first three of the four playoff rounds.
“You want those segment points but you also have to be careful not to be overly aggressive and get in a wreck and not have a shot at winning the big prize,” explained Truex. “It’s a new format for the season and it should be interesting. We just have to wait and see how it shakes out.”
Before Sunday’s 500 Truex will take part in Thursday night’s first Can-Am Duel qualifying race (7 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1). Based on being fifth fastest on Pole Day (Feb. 19), Truex will start third (inside Row 2) in the first Duel race. The Duels will determine the majority of the lineup for the 500. The front row for the 500 was locked in on Pole Day with Chase Elliott winning the pole and Dale Earnhardt Jr. claiming the outside pole.
For the first time the Duel races will offer championship points. The winner of each Duel will get 10 points down to the 10th-place driver, who will get one point. There will not be any playoff points awarded in the Duel races.
“Again, you want some of those points, but you don’t want to wreck your primary Daytona 500 car either,” stated Truex. “This is new and we just have to adjust to the situation and race smart.”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!