Martin Truex Jr. knows the opportunity he lost when his engine blew just 32 laps in.
“This was probably my best shot ever to win the Daytona 500,” he told his team on the radio.
It marked the end of a bad week for Truex Jr., who looked ready to rebound from a bad finish to the season last year by securing a front-row spot with the second-fastest qualifying time last week. But in his Duel on Thursday, a crash at the end of the race wrecked his car and forced him to his backup.
He was afraid he was going to have to race the backup car without any practice, but he squeezed in 13 on Saturday when the weather cleared.
Truex is a tragic figure from last season. He was kicked out of the Chase field as a result of teammate Clint Bowyer’s intentional spin at Richmond, the race that finalized the Chase field. NASCAR ruled that the spin benefited Truex.
The scandal cost Michael Waltrip Racing its top sponsor, and the organization eliminated Truex’s team to save money.
A cycle of pit stops left Danica Patrick in the lead close to the halfway point of the race.
It was the second year in a row she led a lap under green at the Daytona 500. Last year, she became the first woman to do that.
She started 32nd and was running 21st when she got caught up in the first crash of the race, on Lap 146.
Matt Kenseth came to rest backward in his pit box during the first stop of the race. He said he lost sight of his pit sign.
“I just kept looking, looking, looking,” he said over the radio. “I locked the brakes and spun out.”
Rookie’s rough day
Kyle Larson hit the wall just three laps into his first Daytona 500, the result of a cut tire. He hit the wall again later, and he fell a lap behind by the time the race was stopped by rain.