2016 NASCAR Season Officially Opens with Invitational Race Saturday Night at Daytona International Speedway
DENVER (Feb. 9, 2016) — Martin Truex Jr.’s performance in last year’s Sprint Unlimited — the opening NASCAR Cup race of Daytona Speedweeks — turned out to be a sneak peek for the success the Furniture Row Racing driver enjoyed in 2015.
The 35-year-old New Jersey native finished second in the Unlimited after leading a race high of 28 laps in the 75-lap non-points event at Daytona International Speedway. That was 27 more laps than he led the entire 2014 season, his first year with the single-car team based out of Denver, Colo.
“After an uneventful 2014 season, last year’s Sprint Unlimited gave us a big lift,” said Truex. “It told us that we could be competitive, lead laps and race against the best of the best.”
It could also be said that Truex’s runner-up finish in the Unlimited was the springboard for his career best season. He went on to claim 14 top-10 finishes in the first 15 point races, a victory at the June Pocono race and a Chase march to the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He finished fourth in the final point standings, a vault of 20 positions from 2014.
After a relaxing offseason that included outdoor activities from hunting to water skiing, Truex says he feels invigorated as he prepares to tackle a new season starting with Saturday night’s (Feb. 13) Sprint Unlimited at the 2.5-mile oval. Truex earned a berth in the 25-driver Unlimited field as a result of qualifying for last year’s Chase and also as a former Daytona 500 pole winner.
“We’ve had our offseason and now it’s time to go racing,” noted Truex. “After what we accomplished last year and having a new manufacturer (Toyota), a new partner in Bass Pro Shops and a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing, how can you not feel excited and confident about 2016?”
He added, “Actually I feel really good about what we have, and am much more confident entering this season than last year. However, what we accomplished last year there’s a lot of expectations to live up to. We have great new partners in Toyota and Bass Pro Shops. I’ve had very good experiences with both of them in the past and admire how much they put into their racing programs. Right now it’s all about making the transition of having a new manufacturer and a new technical alliance. We’re having new cars built and it will be up to us to figure them out. We obviously want to keep the learning curve very short.”
Following the Unlimited race, the Daytona Speedweeks schedule includes the Daytona 500 Pole Qualifying (Sunday, Feb. 14), Daytona 500 qualifying races (Thursday night, Feb. 18) and the opening points race – the Daytona 500 (Sunday, Feb. 21).
“It’s always a special feeling to be at Daytona International Speedway opener and I am sure it will be even more special this year with the major improvements made to the facility.”
Truex will drive the No. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota in the Sprint Unlimited. At all the other events at Daytona Speedweeks, he will drive the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota.
Saturday night’s Sprint Unlimited will be aired on FOX, beginning at 8 p.m. ET. FOX will also air Sunday’s Pole Day qualifying at 1 p.m. ET.
Furniture Row Racing Traveling Roster, 2016
No. 78 Over-the-Wall Crew
Brian Eastlund, New Bern, N.C.
Chris Hall, Springfield, Mo.
Lee Cunningham, Lake River, IL
Adam Mosher, Fort Mill, S.C.
Bailey Walker, Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Brian Dheel, Norton, Ohio
No. 78 Road Crew
Joe Garone, Denver, Colo.
Cole Pearn, London, Ontario, Canada
Blake Harris, Maypearl, Texas
Jeff Curtis, Fairfax Station, Va.
Pete Craik, Melbourne, Australia
Ryan Kelly, London, Ontario, Canada
Greg Huls, Beatrice, Neb.
Jon Grove, Mandurah, Australia
Toyota Racing Development (TRD)
Clayton Hughes, Thomasville, N.C.
Nick Kerlin, Old Fort, Ohio
Tommy DiBlasi, Annapolis, Md.
Gary Frost, Romeo, Mich.,
Nino Venezia, Philadelphia
Todd Carmichael, Redding, Calif.
Chuck Lemay, DeKalb, IL,
Barry Huston, Bloomingdale, Mich.,
Roy Miller, Elkridge, Md.,
Roger Pritchard, Hutchinson, Kan.,
Henry Benfield, Statesville, N.C.