DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Ryan Truex figures to learn his share of lessons during his first full season on the NASCAR Sprint Cup series.
First of all, don't even think about trying to unravel the labyrinthian qualifying format for the season-opening Daytona 500.
With the 43-car starting grid determined by a combination of owner points, single lap qualifying, and 150-mile qualifying races, a seemingly infinite number of scenarios exist that could put Truex in or out of Sunday's race.
The only sure bet for the Stafford Township, N.J., native is to finish in the top 15 of tonight's second Budweiser Duel qualifying race, a task made more challenging after his No. 83 BK Racing Toyota was swept up in a dramatic multi-car crash during practice Wednesday afternoon.
"You can't worry about any of that (scenario) stuff," said the 21-year-old Truex, who was uninjured in Wednesday's crash but will have to start a backup car in tonight's qualifier. "You've got to go out and race (the qualifier) and try to finish as good as you can.
"In these short races, the biggest thing is to not make mistakes. Stay in the lead pack, do everything you can to get as far to the front as you can, and just kind of hope everything falls into place."
At least one Truex is locked into the 500. Ryan's brother, Martin Jr., qualified second fastest on Sunday and will start on the front row with polesitter Austin Dillon.
The next 30 positions in the 500 - not including Martin Truex Jr. and Dillon - will be filled by top-15 finishers in tonight's qualifiers. Many drivers not finishing in the top 15 are guaranteed spots based on time trials, owner points, and a Cup champion provisional.
That leaves a handful of drivers on the bubble, Truex among them. He didn't do himself any favors in qualifying Sunday, registering the 46th fastest speed among 49 cars. Whether that will be a factor remains to be seen, however.
Of the 49 cars on the entry list, six will not make the 500.
"We knew before we came down here we wouldn't have much speed in single-car runs, and we knew we'd have to (race) our way in," said Ryan Truex, referring to himself and teammate Alex Bowman. "So we've just got to see how we draft."
The draft practice Wednesday offered plenty of room for optimism. He was sixth fastest in the first practice session with a lap of 198.277 mph - almost eight mph faster than his single-car run Sunday. However, his day was marred by a six-car crash that saw fellow rookie Parker Kligerman go upside down, scraping and damaging the catch fence.
"I checked up when I saw (Joey Logano) start checking up and got hit from behind; that was all I could do," Ryan said. "We didn't deserve that at all.
"We'll pull out our backup and see what we can do to race our way in. But it's a shame, we killed a pretty good car."
Truex and Bowman are not in the same qualifier tonight, but Ryan will have at least one potential drafting partner - his brother. Martin Jr. is also in the second qualifier and will start on the pole.
Wednesday was an especially busy day for Ryan, who is also scheduled to compete in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series NextEra Energy Resources 250 on Friday night. In addition to his two Sprint Cup practices, he practiced for 90 minutes in his Turner Scott Motorsports No. 32 Chevy truck.
"I think running the truck race will help me just getting used to drafting in the pack again," Truex said. He was 15th out of 37 trucks in practice. "Any seat time is good seat time, so I think that will benefit me a lot."