DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 19, 2014) The lead up to Sunday’s Daytona 500 has been filled with both a high-degree of anticipation and even some superstition for Martin Truex Jr., the new driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet.
Since announcing a multiyear contract back in November with the single-car Sprint Cup team based in Denver, Colo., Truex has had plenty of time to contemplate his new ride before the 2014 opener.
“I think going to a new team is always something that at first you’re nervous about,” said Truex. “You are always wondering how it’s going to go. You really just want to get there and race.”
After three months of lingering questions Truex found answers very quickly. In his first official competition with Furniture Row Racing, the New Jersey native came out swinging.
He qualified on the front row for the 500, posting the second fastest speed and claiming the outside pole position during Sunday’s Pole Day at Daytona International Speedway.
“Obviously going to a new team, this is the kind of thing you look for,” explained Truex after grabbing the front row starting position. “I can’t say how proud I am of Todd (Berrier, crew chief) and Cole (Pearn, engineer) and everybody at Furniture Row Racing for what they’ve been able to do.”
When Truex completed his qualifying ride Sunday on the famed 2.5-mile oval it was only the second time his new superspeedway car hit the asphalt.
“Right now I think we have something like 15 miles on this car,” noted Truex. “It just shows what kind of race cars this team builds, and I am just proud to be the one holding the gas on the floor. I am definitely refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to go.”
The Furniture Row team didn’t take part in January’s test session at Daytona and only made one qualifying practice run before Sunday’s time trials.
Berrier, a Daytona 500 winning crew chief, made the decision to forgo the Daytona test session for both a practical and possibly a superstitious reason.
He felt the team was best suited to stay in Denver and continue to work in the wind tunnel and at the shop; plus do all the detail work to find extra speed in the car. Berrier also felt that with the open-book technical alliance that Furniture Row Racing shares with Richard Childress Racing he would acquire enough data about the test session.
But then there’s the superstitious side of not testing in Daytona. The year Berrier won the Daytona 500 with Kevin Harvick as the driver (2007), the team skipped the preseason test session.
When pressed by the media if he were superstitious, Berrier said, “Oh, yeah, absolutely. I'm superstitious.”
With the anticipation and superstition now out of the way, Truex is feeling pretty good before the green flag drops for what is known as the Great American Race.
“It’s a long Speedweeks and anything can happen in a blink of an eye,” stated Truex. “But for right now it’s been mission accomplished with this Furniture Row team. We all know what the impact of winning the Daytona 500 is, and I truly feel that we can be a bona fide contender in NASCAR’s biggest race.”
Truex's best finish in the Daytona 500 was sixth in 2010.