DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Martin Truex Jr. expects to hear about this one for the rest of his career.
Maybe even the rest of his life.
Truex was on the losing end of the closest Daytona 500 in race history Sunday, coming up just a few inches short in a photo finish with Denny Hamlin.
“I remember when it happened to Mark Martin, poor guy, been so close here so many times,” Truex said. “They still show the highlight. The picture of that race is in the tunnel when you come in Turn 1. I have a feeling I’m going to have to see that same thing for a long time.
“It hurts a little bit, but a lot to be proud of, for sure.”
Indeed, Martin lost to Kevin Harvick by 0.020 seconds in 2007. That had been the closest finish in Daytona 500 history — until now.
Hamlin edged Truex by 0.010 seconds.
“You’d rather get beat by a few feet than 4 inches, absolutely,” Truex said.
Truex watched a replay of the frantic finish on pit road, wanting to see how close it really was.
Matt Kenseth was leading on the final lap when Hamlin made his move. Hamlin, who was running fourth, jumped out of line and moved to the outside. He got a big push from Kevin Harvick and caught Kenseth, who tried to block him. Hamlin wedged between Kenseth and Truex, and Kenseth got out of shape and had to get off the gas.
Hamlin and Truex raced side by side to the checkered flag.
“Honestly, I don’t know that I could have done anything better to have a better chance of winning it,” Truex said. “We were in the right spot. We made the right moves. … You can second guess all day long. I think the only thing I should have done different was been a little more aggressive coming to the line holding Denny up the racetrack.
“It gave him that couple inches to beat me to the line. If I had been rubbing him up the track a little earlier on, I think we would have been OK. It’s hard to make those decisions. I felt like I had the momentum, and I did ’til those last couple feet. So, you know, live and learn.”
Despite the photo finish and his spotter “going absolutely ballistic on the radio screaming,” Truex never thought he won.
He tried to look at a video replay board, but that didn’t work. So it was few seconds before he got word that he finished second.
“Did my best to beat him at the line, but just came up short,” Truex said.
Truex handled the loss as well as could be expected. He credited what he and longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex have been through in recent years for putting everything in perspective.
Pollex announced last month she was cancer free following 17 months of chemotherapy treatment for ovarian cancer. Truex and Pollex have been dating since 2005.
“Two years ago, I would have been sitting here with a sourpuss on my face,” Truex said. “Today was a great day. We all want to win. This is competition. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to win. But I realize the position I’m in, the opportunities I’m going to have this year. I’m going to have a lot more opportunities to win races. I feel like we did everything right today to put ourselves in position to win.
“Sometimes things go your way, sometimes they don’t. But I’m proud of what we did today. I’m just ecstatic to have the race team I have, to have my life going the way it is. I got it all right now and having fun. That’s what it’s all about.”