Clayton Hughes was going “absolutely ballistic.”
Standing atop the frontstretch grandstand at Daytona International Speedway, the third-year spotter for Martin Truex Jr. was reacting as one would had the car they guided just been part of NASCAR history.
Still on the track in his No. 78 Chevrolet, Truex was on the receiving end of the radio channel and Hughes’ yelling. The Furniture Row Racing driver knew it had been close. Either him or Denny Hamlin was the winner of the 58th Daytona 500.
The veteran of 12 Daytona 500’s even tried learning the result from a trackside video board.
“I couldn’t tell what the heck was going on,” Truex said.
Ultimately, Truex learned he had lost out on being a Daytona 500 champion by .01 seconds. But Truex said he never allowed himself to think he had won.
“You never want to jump to conclusions in those deals,” Truex said. The conclusion is Truex’s result is the new answer to the trivia question, “Who came in second in the closest finish in Daytona 500 history?”
For 10 years the correct answer was Mark Martin. In the 2007 race, Martin lost to Kevin Harvick by .02 seconds. It was the closest Martin ever got to winning the Great American Race in a career that spanned four decades. He’s among the greatest NASCAR drivers to never win the sport’s biggest race.
“I remember when it happened to Mark Martin (in 2007), poor guy, been so close here so many times,” Truex said. “They still show the highlight. The picture of that race is in the tunnel when you come in Turn 1. I have a feeling I’m going to have to see that same thing for a long time.”
After that 2007 race, Martin said “I didn’t ask for that trophy; I asked for a chance at it.”
Now retired, Martin took to Twitter to let Truex know he wasn’t alone.
While Truex admitted the loss “hurts a little bit,” the New Jersey native said it was “a lot to be proud of,” even if it continues to hang over him, like a picture in a Daytona tunnel.
“Just going to have to watch that on the highlight reel for the rest of my career, I suppose, the rest of my life,” Truex lamented.