Prior to Sunday’s Daytona 500, Furniture Row Racing newcomer Martin Truex Jr. had thought that he was to have his best opportunity to win The Great American Race.
And then, on Lap 30, everything went south for him when his motor did. Considering that he’d qualified on the front row for Daytona, you figure that was particularly galling for him.
But what’s done can’t be undone. And so, Truex is looking ahead to this weekend’s race at Phoenix International Raceway, where he hopes to make headlines for the right reasons.
“My thoughts are toward the future,” he said in a team release. “I don’t like to think about what happened on Sunday in Daytona, but a post-race Phoenix headline that reads ‘From Last to First’ would be just fine with me.”
Truex has never won at PIR but comes off a Top-10 finish there last fall in one of his final performances with Michael Waltrip Racing. Like everybody else, he’ll have to find his way around NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying format.
Depending on the track length, the format consists of either two or three rounds. In Phoenix’s case, it’ll be two, with the fastest 12 drivers from the 30-minute opening round moving on to compete for the pole position in Round 2.
Truex figures once people get used to it, the format will “evolve rather quickly” as the assorted minds of the garage come up with ways to make it work for their drivers and teams.
“Regarding the new qualifying system, I am excited about it because [crew chief] Todd [Berrier] is really innovative and he comes up with what seems to be crazy ideas,” he said.
“I think the biggest challenge with this new format is making all the qualifying runs on one set of tires. You are going to need to run hard enough to advance and not too hard to wear out the tires so you can be fast at the end.”