DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Martin Truex Jr. went to bed Saturday night thinking the next afternoon would present his best-ever chance of winning the Daytona 500. Unfortunately for the Furniture Row Racing driver, he never got the opportunity to find out.
Truex's Daytona 500 ended after just 30 laps Sunday, when smoke began emanating from the rear of the No. 78 car. The ensuing failure knocked Truex out of the race, one week after he had secured a front-row starting spot for the event. The No. 78 hauler packed up and left the speedway during a rain delay.
"The car was just so good," Truex said in the garage area before his hauler left. "We were just riding around, biding our time, trying to be patient, because you've got to get to the end of this thing. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be."
The Furniture Row team is affiliated with Richard Childress Racing and uses Earnhardt Childress Racing engines. But Truex believed something -- perhaps debris on the race track -- knocked the oil pump belt off his car.
"Typically, that belt comes off, you've got about two seconds to shut it off before it blows up," Truex said. "Just didn't get enough warning."
Truex had one of the fastest cars in Daytona 500 practice, and last week qualified second behind Coors Light Pole Award winner Austin Dillon to claim a front-row starting spot for the Great American Race. But a wreck in his qualifying event Thursday night forced him to a back-up car and required that he drop to the rear before the green flag. Not long after the start, his engine went as well.
"Definitely a shame, definitely a tough break for this race team -- they built a great race car," he said. "I guess the only good news is, we've got a pretty strong piece to race next time, because it's pretty darn good."
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