DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Martin Truex Jr.'s "best shot ever" to win the Daytona 500 ended with his worst finish ever at NASCAR's most famous track.
Truex's engine blew after 30 laps Sunday, making him the first driver out and guaranteeing him a last-place finish.
Truex earned the outside pole for "The Great American Race" in the No. 78 Chevrolet, but had to start in the back of the field after wrecking in a qualifying race Thursday night.
He was on the move and running 15th when his car started smoking. Preliminary assessments indicate the oil pump belt came off.
"Definitely a shame and definitely a tough break for this team," he said.
Truex had been considered a strong contender for the season opener after he posted the second-fastest time in pole qualifying last Sunday.
It came in his debut race with Furniture Row Racing, the Denver-based team he signed with after his season suddenly unraveled because of a cheating scandal involving Michael Waltrip Racing last September.
NASCAR replaced Truex in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field with Ryan Newman last year as part of MWR's punishment for manipulating the finish at Richmond to get Truex into the Chase. It eventually led sponsor NAPA to leave MWR, which cost Truex his ride.
Furniture Row was a good landing spot considering Kurt Busch helped the organization become the first single-car team to make the Chase last season.
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