Late Daytona wreck keeps Martin Truex Jr. from picking up where he left off last season

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Last season, Martin Truex Jr. won a series-high eight races en route to capturing his first career NASCAR Cup championship.

Truex hoped to pick up where he left off at the end of last season with his first career win in the Daytona 500 on Sunday.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t his day, as Truex finished 18th in the season opener.

But that’s not to say he wasn’t close. On the contrary. Truex was running second with seven laps left, but was shuffled back after being involved in a wreck with two laps left in originally scheduled 200-lap distance.

And there went his winning hopes.

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While his team managed to get him back on-track, the damage was done and he finished two laps down to the leaders.

“Not the day we were looking for,” Truex said. “It was our day for a while and then it wasn’t. It’s just the way it goes.

“Superspeedway racing – a lot of it is out of your control. That last caution in hindsight, we probably should have gotten tires. Tried to come up from the back because we were sitting ducks upfront.”

That he was running second so late in the race is a testament to the efficiency of Truex and his team. Earlier in the race, the No. 78 Toyota had fallen two laps back due to a punctured oil cooler, front end damage and a flat right rear tire after being caught up in a wreck.

But Truex managed to work his way back onto the lead lap and was in position to make a great comeback – only to fall short at the end.

“We didn’t have enough speed to keep up with some of those guys up front. I’d get back there but didn’t have the speed to get by them. It was just one of those deals where we needed it to stay green to be in a good spot. It just didn’t work out in the end.”

But there were some bright spots: he earned 11 championship points for finishing fifth and sixth in the first two stages.

“It was our day for a while and then it wasn’t,” Truex said. “It’s just the way it goes.”