May 2, 2014, 4:22 PM EDT
It’s rare a driver gets a second chance in NASCAR, but Martin Truex Jr. did during Friday’s first practice session at Talladega Superspeedway for Sunday’s Aaron’s 499.
Truex sat on the outside pole for the season-opening Daytona 500 back in February, but his hopes and dreams of a win in the Great American Race ended after just 30 laps when the oil pump on his Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet broke.
End of story, end of race for Truex, who ultimately finished last in the 43-driver field.
But in the first of two practice Sprint Cup sessions on Friday, Truex reached back for some of the same magic he had during qualifying at Daytona.
The New Jersey native, who is in his first season at FRR after a four-year stint with Michael Waltrip Racing, was the fastest in the early afternoon practice.
Not only that, Truex cracked the 200 mph mark in doing so, leading the 47 cars that took part in the practice session with a top speed of 200.721 mph.
Truex is currently 27th in the Sprint Cup standings heading into Talladega, 159 points behind series leader Jeff Gordon.
And while his record at Talladega is far from stellar – he’s managed to finish just nine of his prior 18 starts there, Truex is optimistic that he can build upon Friday’s practice time.
“The car is fast, and we knew it would be as fast as it was in Daytona,” Truex said after the first practice session. “We just didn’t have a chance to show the speed at Daytona.
“It’s good that we still have the speed in it. We put ourselves in the right spot today to hit the big number. I think we only did nine or 10 laps and everything felt good so we’re ready to go and qualify tomorrow.”
As a result, Truex said he would not take part in Friday’s second practice session.
As for qualifying Saturday, Truex said there’s more from where Friday’s practice speed came from.
“We would like to be in the same position as we were today,” he said. “At the start of practice we got in front of a line of cars and were able to make a run up there.
“The difference (during Saturday’s qualifying) is that we don’t know what everyone else’s plan is going to be. Everyone will be trying to do what we did in practice today and that’s to be in the right position to get the fastest speed.
“And at the same time, it’s going to be a risky session. Our No. 1 goal right now is to make sure this Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet races on Sunday. If we feel like we’re in a danger zone, we’ll abort. It really doesn’t matter where you start here.”
Truex is coming off a season-best finish of 10th at Richmond last Saturday, had plenty of company as four other drivers also cracked 200 mph:
On the flip side, several drivers struggled to find speed in the first session. Kyle Busch was 41st-fastest (195.389 mph), Dale Earnhardt Jr. was right behind (195.337), six-time and defending Sprint Cup champ Jimmie Johnson was 45th-fastest (190.537) and J.J. Yeley brought up the rear of the field at an almost glacial 187.331 mph.
Chevrolet dominated the first practice session from a manufacturer’s standpoint with 11 Chevy-powered drivers among the fastest in the top 20.
Ford had seven drivers while Toyota continued its struggles with only one driver in the top 10 (Waltrip, seventh-fastest) and Clint Bowyer (18th-fastest).
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