DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — If you took a tour of the NASCAR XFINITY Series garage on Friday afternoon at Daytona Int’l Speedway, you’d have been hard-pressed to find anyone in a better mood than Ryan Truex.
His bright smile came from much more than the fact that he finished 15th in the opening 50-minute practice and improved to sixth in the final round two hours later, too.
At the end of the day, Truex carried confidence and simple joy of being back at the race track.
After all, it was barely two months ago that the 25-year-old was unsure if he was even going to have a ride this season, after the Hattori Racing Enterprises NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team that he drove for in 2017 decided to go a different direction for the new season.
Then Matt Kaulig came into the picture, stepping up and hiring Truex to drive the No. 11 Chevrolet Camaro that had been driven in recent years by Blake Koch at the XFINITY level.
The younger brother of defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. will make his full-time debut in NASCAR’s second-highest division on Saturday afternoon in the PowerShares QQQ 300 at Daytona, but a day out from the race, the younger Truex’s enthusiasm was clear.
“I’m just glad to be here,” Truex said following final practice. “When I walked in the garage yesterday and saw my car in here with my name on it, it was a really good feeling. I’m really thankful to Matt Kaulig and this whole team for allowing me to come do this.”
Truex, who missed the Truck Series playoffs on a tiebreaker against Ben Rhodes last fall, has only one prior Daytona start in an XFINITY car — crashing out of the 2012 season-opener while driving a Tommy Baldwin-owned entry.
However, he nearly won the Truck Series race at Daytona two years ago and is a strong drafter, saying that his XFINITY car for Saturday’s race may be the most potent bullet he’s ever brought to Daytona or its sister track, Talladega Superspeedway.
“This is probably the best superspeedway vehicle I’ve ever driven,” said Truex. “Right off the truck, it was great. We were just a little free to start and we made an adjustment … and it was the right one. I went out in the pack and got to racing (Kyle) Larson and Chase Elliott, as well as a few other guys, a little bit and our Bar Harbor/SeaWatch Camaro was fast.”
“We’ve got a car that I think is going to race really well, but it’s Daytona. The first hurdle is that you’ve got to make it to the end in order to have a shot. If we can do that, I think we’ll be in really good shape.”
Truex will qualify alongside 45 other XFINITY Series drivers when the series returns to the high banks of Daytona Int’l Speedway on Saturday morning at 9:30 ET.
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 24-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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