Wednesday, Feb. 14: Daytona 500 qualifying (single-lap qualifying to determine pole for the Daytona 500)
● Time/TV/Radio: 8 p.m. ET on FS1/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Thursday, Feb. 15: Bluegreen Vacations Duel (twin 150-mile qualifying races that set the field for the Daytona 500)
● Time/TV/Radio: 7 p.m. ET on FS1/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Sunday, Feb. 18: 66th annual Daytona 500 (first of 36 points-paying NASCAR Cup Series races in 2024)
● Time/TV/Radio: 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Notes of Interest
● Truex and the No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry team for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) kicked off the unofficial season by finishing ninth in the 150-lap feature in the non-points Clash at the Coliseum on Feb. 3 in Los Angeles.
● Truex will be making his 20th career start in The Great American Race. His first Daytona 500 came on Feb. 20, 2005. He started 10th in that race and finished 34th after engine issues sidelined him with just 22 laps remaining.
● While Truex has been ever so close to victory on multiple occasions, the Bass Pro Shops driver is still looking for his first Daytona 500 win. In the 2016 Daytona 500, Truex was involved in the closest finish in the history of the race when he battled JGR teammate Denny Hamlin to the checkered flag, narrowly missing out on the victory by a scant .01 of a second. It was one of the most memorable photo finishes in the race’s 65-year history.
● To earn a spot in this year’s Daytona 500, drivers must first compete in the Bluegreen Vacations Duel – twin 150-mile qualifying races that set the 40-car field for the Daytona 500. In all, Truex has three top-five finishes and 11 top-10s in 19 career Duel starts.
● Before drivers compete in the Duel, they race the clock in single-lap qualifying. The two fastest cars are locked into the field while the rest of the drivers are split into the Duel. Qualifiers in odd-numbered positions are in the first Duel and qualifiers in even-numbered positions are in the second Duel. Truex has one Daytona 500 pole to his credit, coming in 2009 for Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing.
● The 2024 season marks Truex’s 20th in the NASCAR Cup Series. Of his 657 career, points-paying starts, 37 of them have come on Daytona’s 2.5-mile oval. In addition to the aforementioned runner-up finish in 2016, Truex has another runner-up finish at Daytona coming in July 2009. He has three top-five finishes and six top-10s on the Daytona oval. The 66th Daytona 500 will be his 38th points-paying start on the Daytona oval.
● Outside of the NASCAR Cup Series, Truex has made seven career NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Daytona. Of Truex’s 13 career Xfinity Series wins, only one is at Daytona – coming in July 2005. Truex is a two-time Xfinity Series champion (2004 and 2005) to go with his 2017 Cup Series championship.
Martin Truex Jr., Driver of the No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry TRD
How important is it to win the Daytona 500 before your career is done?
“I want to win the Daytona 500, it would be great, obviously. 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 (Hamlin). 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, to be able to get our Bass Pro Shops Camry XSE in victory lane and covered in confetti.”
What would the feeling be like to finally win the Daytona 500?
“It’s hard to understand what it really feels like to win the Daytona 500. 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. I don’t think it’s something you can understand until you can make it happen yourself and experience a win there yourself.”
What is the atmosphere like before the Daytona 500. What makes Daytona so special?
“It’s just the center of our racing world, the biggest race of the year for us, and it’s always the first points race of the season. It’s the complete opposite of most sports in that regard. It’s always fun to go down there and it’s like the first day of school but the biggest event of the year for us. It’s a lot of fun, a lot of pressure, and a lot going on. It’s a great way for us to kick off the year.”
What makes the Duel qualifying races at Daytona so nerve-wracking for you guys?
“The Duel is kind of a nervous time for the drivers, and the crew chiefs, especially. You want to get through that race and you really want to be able to race that car in the Daytona 500. You also want to finish close to the front so you can get a good starting spot. You want to manage the race and be careful how hard you want to push it and make sure you don’t put yourself in a spot so you don’t end up wrecked and have to go to a backup car for the 500.”
The Daytona 500 is NASCAR’s biggest race of the year. Was there a Daytona 500 you watched when you were younger, before you were a competitor, that sticks out in your mind?
“When Dale Earnhardt finally won the Daytona 500 in 1998 was one I remember the most. I was a fan of his growing up, so I watched a lot of those heartbreaking finishes prior to that where he led and something would happen, have a flat tire, hit a seagull, whatever would happen. To be able to see him finally win, and how many of his peers on pit road came out to congratulate him because everyone knew how much that race meant to him, to his career, and to the sport.”
There will be drivers not locked into the Daytona 500 who have to race their way in during the Duel. Do you remember having to do the same thing your first few years in the sport?
“It was 2005 and I was still a fulltime Busch Series driver at the time. I just remember the stress of trying to make the race. I was not locked in on points and I had to race my way in during the Duel. I think I finished fourth in our Duel to make it, but it was a stressful day. The pressure was on myself and the team to make sure we had a good enough finish to get into the race. That was definitely my first experience of having nerves trying to make the biggest race of the year.”
After so much build-up, what’s it like heading out to the grid and getting ready to run in the Daytona 500?
“It’s like you exhale and finally say it’s time to do this, it’s no more talking so let’s get it done. You get into the car and everything gets back into focus and you know what you have to work on. The racing itself is just incredible. You never know what’s going to happen, especially when you get down to the end. Guys are all going for it and putting it all on the line and it’s always exciting for the fans.”
How would you describe the racing at Daytona?
“Daytona is a wide-open crapshoot. 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 at the end.”
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