DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. – No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr. finished 35th in Saturday night's Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway after being caught up in a hard crash during an attempt at a first green-white-checkered flag finish. The Michael Waltrip Racing driver started 34th and made it up to the top spot by lap 31 with help from teammate David Reutimann. Earlier in the day, the duo received a $1 million incentive to score a 1-2 finish by co-owner Rob Kauffman. The strategy put them in contention throughout the entire event as Truex lead several times for a total of 16 laps. Unfortunately, the final restart wiped out the MWR teams' chances for the big payout.
"We did all the things right tonight," said a very frustrated Truex. "I want to thank the entire NAPA AUTO PARTS team, David Reutimann and my owners Rob Kauffman and Michael Waltrip. We had a chance at the bonus Rob offered up and that's pretty neat. We led laps and were in contention all the way to the end. We had the speed. We just were a bit challenged when we were side-by-side with some cars with about 15 to go. But, really, everything appeared to be going by the plan we set. We ran up in the top 10 pretty much all day and just ended up in the wrong place when someone made a mistake. I'll be honest, I'm leaving here so disappointed. We ran such a good race and led a bunch. We just got taken out."
It took just five laps before the yellow flag flew after the two-car draft of reigning Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne and Brad Keselowski experienced a problem. Bayne went nose first into the wall ending his chance for a Daytona sweep.
Truex and Reutimann picked up where they left off at Talladega Superspeedway as they teamed up and worked together. During the yellow, the duo pitted for a splash of fuel. They returned to the track in 23rd and 24th respectively.
The yellow flag flew again on lap 23 after Greg Biffle hooked his teammate Carl Edwards. The MWR team made it through unscathed giving them a chance to return to pit road for two fresh tires and fuel. When the green flag waved, they lined up inside the top 10 in seventh and eighth positions. Just seven laps later on lap 31, the No. 56 took the top spot to earn a valuable bonus point. He held the lead through lap 36.
After another caution on lap 48, Truex took the lead again on lap 54 and during this green-flag sequence ran in the top spot for seven more circuits. At the halfway mark, the NAPA Toyota ran in ninth position as the top six cars mixed things up a little too much to Truex's liking. The MWR duo dropped back and waited to make another run to the front.
The team's first green-flag stop happened on lap 93. This time the NAPA KNOW HOW pit crew changed two left-side tires and added fuel. Truex and Reutimann went back out onto the track in the top five and on lap 100, the No. 56 returned to the lead.
The MWR teams dove onto pit road one final time on lap 132 for two fresh tires and fuel. The Kauffman incentive remained intact as Truex and Reutimann remained stuck like glue in the closing laps.
Then with three laps to go, Jeff Gordon broke loose in a large multi-car pack. Truex and Reutimann dove low to avoid contact as the yellow flag flew. The caution set up a green-white-checkered-flag finish with Truex in 13th position and Reutimann lined up in 15. However on the restart, several cars made contact and collected Truex in the aftermath. Damage sustained forced Truex behind the wall and ended the NAPA team's impressive run.
David Ragan scored his first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory with the help of teammate Matt Kenseth. Rounding out the top-10 finishers were Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Paul Menard, Juan Pablo Montoya and A.J. Allmendinger.
Next Saturday night Truex and the NAPA KNOW HOW crew race in the inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Kentucky Speedway.