As soon as qualifying for the 59th Daytona 500 was over Sunday, Furniture Row Racing crew chief Cole Pearn and other team members were Denver-bound.
When their plane landed, Martin Truex Jr. said their goal was to figure out “how things got screwed up and where they went wrong.”
During the first weekend of “Speedweeks,” the No. 78 of Truex and No. 77 of Erik Jones missed significant track time in practice. Both cars experienced failed template inspection multiple times, a result of faulty template grids at their Denver shop, NBC’s Jeff Burton reported Monday.
The template issues resulted in roofs of FRR’s cars being too high and the decklids being too low.
While the issues were on their Daytona cars, Truex said Pearn and company are burning “a lot of midnight oil” preparing for the races that come after the “Great American Race.”
“Yeah, it’s been a big issue,” Truex said Wednesday at Daytona 500 Media Day. “(They) have been there working on stuff for Atlanta. … They’ve got a lot of work ahead of them, obviously, and we’ve got a good bunch of guys there at the shop, fabricators and such, so we’ll get it straightened out.”
The fixed superspeedway cars resulted in Truex putting up the fourth fastest speed in qualifying. Jones, the rookie who will drive FRR’s expansion car, was 20th fastest.
“It’s just definitely a setback that you don’t want this early in the season, especially for us,” Truex said. “We were building all new cars because we changed the body style this year (to the) 2018 Camry. Obviously going to two cars, that’s a little bit different.”
Inspection failures were a common occurrence for the No. 78 team in 2016, its first season backed by Toyota.
Pearn was suspended for the spring Phoenix race and fined $50,000 after Truex’s car was found to have a roof flap violation during inspection at Atlanta. Pearn had been on probation for a pre-race roof flap violation prior to last year’s Daytona 500.
The team failed post-race laser inspection in consecutive weekends in the regular season finale at Richmond and opening playoff race at Chicagoland, but NASCAR decided not to penalize the team for Chicago. Following pre-qualifying inspection at Talladega in October, NASCAR confiscated left front jack screws.
“At the end of the day, we have to go through inspection and pass just like everybody else,” Truex said. “The rules are the same for everyone, and obviously we’ve had our issues in the past. But I think it’s funny when you talk to Cole, he gets so angry about it because he’s like, everybody thinks that there’s this master plan, and we’re like these guys that try to get everything past NASCAR. Well, it’s really just not the case. It is what it is, but hopefully they’ll get it fixed, like I said, and we won’t have any issues going forward.”
Truex and the rest of Furniture Row Racing return to the track Thursday for practice and the Can-Am Duel.