TAMPA, Fla. (AP) – Martin Truex Jr. is more driven than anything by the 2016 Daytona 500.
Truex finished second to Denny Hamlin in a photo finish last year. He gets another shot at the “Great American Race” on Feb 26.
“It’s the biggest race of the year for us … It’s the one everyone wants to win, and so it was really cool to be part of that finish, the closest ever in history with all the guys that have raced at Daytona,” Truex said Tuesday night. “But at the same time, it’s such a big race and you want to win it so bad. To come that close hurts.”
Truex has seen replays of the finish a few times during the past year, including a promo for the 2017 race during Sunday’s Super Bowl.
“Kind of remembering it from last year a little bit,” Truex said. “Looking forward to hopefully getting on the other side of that one this year.”
Truex and the other drivers will be competing this season under a new championship format.
NASCAR is cutting races into three segments. Points will be awarded to the top-10 finishing drivers from the first two segments. The third and final segment will determine the overall race winner. Bonus points can be carried into the playoffs.
“We’ve got some different rules this year that I think will benefit our team,” Truex said. “For us, I think it’s a welcome change. I think the fans are really going enjoy it once we roll them out. I’m excited about taking points to the playoffs. I think that will be a big deal for our team.”
Had NASCAR run the system this past season, Jimmie Johnson still would have won the title, but Truex would have advanced one more round through the playoffs based on his two victories in the first round.
Truex was in attendance for Tuesday’s NHL game between the Los Angeles Kings and Tampa Bay. He traded helmets with Lightning defenseman Jason Garrison, and received a No. 78 – his car number – Tampa Bay jersey from the team.