Martin Truex Jr. had a place on the front row of the Daytona 500 starting grid all sewn up. On the outside pole after posting the second-fastest qualifying speed Feb. 16, all he had to do was drive a clean race during the second heat of the Budweiser Duel on Thursday.
Unlike Austin Dillon, on the pole in the No. 3 car's return to NASCAR's highest level, who chose to drop back a safe distance in the first Budweiser Duel race after leading for the first 14 laps, Truex was there to race. Unfortunately, he got caught up in a multi-car wreck that ensued after Jimmie Johnson ran out of gas and collided with Jamie McMurray. Several other drivers, including Clint Bowyer, who went upside down in the air briefly, and Michael Waltrip were also caught up in it and forced to backup cars. In a backup car of his own, Truex will have to forfeit his spot on the front row before the start of the race.
"It's unfortunate obviously, last corner, last lap to have something like that happen," Truex told SB Nation on Thursday. "It's not the end of the world. We've got a good backup car and it doesn't matter really where you start here."
Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin, starting on the second row, were winners of the Budweiser Duel races and could be considered favorites in the race. Kenseth led 31 of 60 laps in the first race before holding off Kasey Kahne and Kevin Harvick at the end to win the heat. In the second race, Hamlin led the final 23 laps to claim victory.
Like Truex and others caught up in the crash, a few other drivers will be forced to the back. Teammates Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick were forced to make engine changes after practice on Feb. 15 and were penalized by NASCAR officials for it. Bobby Labonte was also cited for unauthorized engine changes.
The 200-lap Daytona 500 will be televised on Fox starting with prerace coverage at noon (ET). Barring rain, the green flag is expected to fly at 1:19 p.m.
Daytona 500 starting grid
|1||Austin Dillon*||Martin Truex, Jr. (B)|
|2||Matt Kenseth||Denny Hamlin|
|3||Kasey Kahne||Jeff Gordon|
|4||Marcos Ambrose||Kurt Busch|
|5||Dale Earnhardt. Jr||Paul Menard|
|6||Jose Wise||Brian Scott|
|7||Aric Almirola||Trevor Bayne|
|8||AJ Allmendinger||Kyle Larson|
|9||David Gilliland||Landon Cassill|
|10||Ryan Newman||Clint Bowyer (B)|
|11||Tony Stewart (E)||Jamie McMurray (B)|
|12||Cole Whitt||Terry Labonte|
|13||Greg Biffle||Bobby Labonte (E)|
|14||Danica Patrick (E)||Casey Mears|
|15||Alex Bowman||Carl Edwards|
|16||Brian Vickers||Jimmie Johnson (B)|
|17||Brad Keselowski||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.|
|18||Joey Logano||Michael Annett|
|19||Kyle Busch||Kevin Harvick|
|20||Reed Sorenson||Justin Allgaier|
|21||Parker Kligerman||Michael Waltrip (B)|
*Dillon can choose to start on either the inside or outside lane.
B: Driver will drop to the back at the start due to using a backup car.
E: Driver will drop to the back at the start due to unauthorized engine changes.