Truex wants “huge” Daytona 500 win, but it’s a “wide-open crapshoot”

Truex wants “huge” Daytona 500 win, but it’s a “wide-open crapshoot”

Truex agreed to a one-year extension to return to Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 19 Toyota for the 2024 season and is now on a “year-to-year” basis when it comes to evaluating how long he’ll remain a full-time driver.

The 43-year-old native of Mayetta, N.J., has had a Hall of Fame-worthy career featuring one Cup championship, two Xfinity Series titles and 34 Cup wins, including wins in the Southern 500 and Coca-Cola 600.

The one glaring omission from his stellar resume – a win at one of NASCAR’s superspeedways of Daytona and Talladega, and in particular the Daytona 500.

Truex has come excruciatingly close, however.

In the 2016 Daytona 500, Truex JGR teammate Denny Hamlin to the checkered flag, narrowly missing out on the victory by a scant .01 of a second.

Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota beats Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota to the checkered flag

Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota beats Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row Racing Toyota to the checkered flag

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

“I want to win the Daytona 500, it would be great, obviously,” Truex said. “Daytona has been a tough one for us. We’ve been second there before and though we had it won back in 2016, we just got beat out by a few inches by Denny.

“I don’t know if I’d be completely disappointed with my career as a whole if, someday when I retire, I look back and I’m like, ‘Ah, I didn’t win that race.’ I don’t know if that is a big deal to me or not.

“I still have opportunities to get it done, so I try not to think about it. But it’d be huge to win, that’s for sure.”

One of the most difficult aspects of the 500 for a driver is that while the race is perhaps the most coveted to win, it can also be one of the most difficult to obtain.

Because of the drafting and tight pack racing that dominates the race, drivers often make moves with help from others, or can get easily caught up in the aftermath of someone else’s mistake.

“A wide-open crapshoot”

The 2024 season marks Truex’s 20th in Cup. Of his 657 starts, 37 of them have come on Daytona’s 2.5-mile oval, where he has three top-five and six top-10 finishes.

“Daytona is a wide-open crapshoot,” said Truex, last year’s regular season Cup champion. “Everyone holds it wide open. You get down to the end of the race and we’ve seen the crashes over and over on the green-white-checkereds.

“Everyone just holds it wide open and, if they have any momentum at all, they just try to drive through the guy in front of them and it spins him out and crashes him. It’s really just a wild card, it’s kind of crazy.

“I wouldn’t say I’m not unconformable there, but it kind of stinks to get down to the end, if you make it that far, to just get crashed.”

Truex says he isn’t sure how a 500 victory would even feel, or change the outlook on his NASCAR career, but he’s anxious to find out.

“You go back and watch guys who have won that race for the first time, whether they’ve won a lot and won championships or won it early on in their career, you just see the excitement and how much it means,” he said.

“I don’t think it’s something you can understand until you can make it happen yourself.”

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