DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It was the case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time for No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr. on Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway. The Michael Waltrip Racing driver climbed into the top five early in the Coke Zero 400, but his luck started to run out when a piece of metal from Kyle Busch’s wrecked car damaged his splitter on lap 103. After visiting pit lane for repairs, he restarted in 18th position and near the back of the pack. The loss in track position put him at risk as he had to race his way up through the field and against cars that were not handling as well. Then on lap 116, David Ragan lost control of his car triggering a multi-car accident that severely damaged the NAPA Toyota.
"I'm not quite sure what happened,” said Truex who started the race in 18th position after qualifying was rained out on Friday afternoon. "They all spun in front of me. I saw the No. 6 car up in front of me sideways. He was coming down the track. You just can't slow down. We had a good car. The NAPA Toyota was running really well."
"When Kyle wrecked, we hit some of his debris and pitted twice because we were afraid the splitter would drag. It got us mid pack and it wasn’t long until we found ourselves in a wreck."
The NAPA Know How crew worked vigorously in the garage to get the No. 56 Toyota back on track. Truex re-fired the engine and returned to the track on lap 144. The driver complimented his team by saying it drove well despite the damage. Truex went on to finish the race in 35th position.
Before the bad luck, rain delayed the start of the race for more than two hours. When the green flag finally waved, the No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota looked to be one of the fastest cars on the track. Truex ran as high as fourth on lap 22. His NAPA Toyota favored the bottom line and was loose up in the high groove. Crew chief Pat Tryson had his driver pit on laps 55 and 67 to improve the car’s handling for the top line. It was not long until Truex informed his team that he was cautiously waiting for the final laps of the race to show all his car’s speed. Unfortunately the wreck put that strategy to bed.
“We have good cars, but we just can't catch any breaks,” said Truex. “It's a shame because the NAPA Know How crew is working hard. The NAPA Toyota was really good and we were running up in the top 10 most of the race.”
A 16-car accident with 12 laps remaining brought out the red flag for just over 19 minutes. But when it was time to go back to green, Kevin Harvick showed his muscle and won the race in a green-white-checkered finish. Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon rounded out top-three finishers.
The Coke Zero 400 lasted two hours, 37 minutes and 19 seconds. It featured 47 lead changes among 18 drivers. The race was slowed by nine cautions for a total of 34 laps
Truex is now 20th in points as the Sprint Cup Series travels to Chicagoland for Saturday night’s race.
Coke Zero 400 Unofficial Results:
Unofficial Championship Points Standings: