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Feb 15, 2014 - 06:20 AM
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Martin Truex Jr -- In The Flesh -- Is Ready For A New Season
Posted by: ASkyler on Feb 15, 2014 - 06:17 AM
Feature Articles
Martin Truex Jr -- In The Flesh -- Is Ready For A New Season

By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Yes, Daytona, there really is a Martin Truex Jr.

You can't blame those who were beginning to wonder. Though Truex and his new Furniture Row Racing team were barely acquainted in January, they didn't participate in Preseason Thunder testing at Daytona International Speedway in early January.

During the NASCAR Sprint Cup Media Tour late last month, Truex appeared via Skype from a Caribbean vacation spot in Anguilla.

Nor did Truex make it to his scheduled Media Day appearance Thursday at Daytona. His plane was snowed in at the Statesville, N.C., airport until late afternoon.

But after what has been an unusual offseason for the driver of the No. 78 Chevrolet, Truex arrived at the Daytona International Speedway on Thursday evening well-rested and ready to go.


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"I feel really good about it, definitely refreshed, rejuvenated, ready to go," Truex said Friday.

Truex added that there was a method to skipping the Preseason Thunder sessions, part of which might have to do with superstition on the part of crew chief Todd Berrier.

"I think they're approaching this a little differently," Truex said. "They didn't feel like this was one of the places where they wanted to spend the time and effort testing. They felt like their time was better spent getting stuff ready at the shop to go test at a place like Nashville, which we've already been to.

"I think part of it is Berrier's a little bit superstitious. He said the year that they didn't test here they won the (Daytona) 500 (with Kevin Harvick at Richard Childress Racing in 2007). So maybe that's part of the reason as well. He hasn't really said that, but that's kind of what I got from talking to him.

"But we'll just see how it goes. It's been a great offseason. There's been a lot of work behind the scenes, obviously, getting all the stuff ready. … It hasn't been a typical offseason, but it's been a busy one, for sure."


There's good reason for Jeff Gordon fans to be ambivalent.

Sure, they'd love to see the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet win a fifth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

But if Gordon does snag a fifth title this year, chances are his supporters won't see him on the track in 2015.

"If I win the championship this year, I've put in 20-plus great years," Gordon told reporters Thursday during Media Day interviews at Daytona International Speedway. "I do this now because I love it, because I like being competitive, and because I want another championship. I want to get a Sprint Cup championship.

"I go home and I look at my trophy room. I see four trophies, championship trophies. But they say 'Winston Cup' on them. You can name me a four-time Sprint Cup champion for technical reasons all you want, but to me, I'm still not. I want that before my career's over.

"If that happened, that would be all the reasons I need to say, 'This is it, I'm done.' Go out on a high note, and start playing baseball."


There's no driver in the garage who's happier than Denny Hamlin to see the end of the offseason.

For obvious reasons, Hamlin is eager to forget the 2013 season, even though he won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota missed four races with a compression fracture of his first lumbar vertebra, the result of an accident at Auto Club Speedway (Fontana, Calif.) in late March.

Though he won a series-best five Coors Light Pole Awards, Hamlin crashed out of four races and suffered three engine failures after returning to action.

"Usually, you're kind of thinking about the grind's about to start and you're about to spend a lot of time away from home," Hamlin said. "But for me, I'm one of the few drivers that couldn't get this offseason over quick enough, because as soon as we hit the race track, 2013 is over, and 2014 has started, and we can stop talking about last year.

"I'm excited for that part of it. So for me, it's the anticipation, and (from) what I've seen from testing, I believe that we're going to be one of the guys that come out pretty strong pretty early, and that's typically not how we start anyway."


As part of his continuing commitment to K-12 public education, Jimmie Johnson announced Friday the Inaugural Wellness Challenge championed by the Jimmie Johnson Foundation.

The Wellness Challenge will consist of four events in North Carolina this year: a 5K on Apr. 27 in Huntersville; the Lake Norman Excursion (a 5K run and multi-distance bike ride) on July 12 in Mooresville; the Cane Creek Sprint Triathlon on Aug. 19 in Waxhaw; and the Lake Davidson Sprint Triathlon on Sept. 7 in Davidson.

In staging these events, the Jimmie Johnson Foundation, branding itself as TeamJJF, has partnered with Cool Breeze Cyclery, which operates in three Charlotte-area locations.

"We have a great fundraiser in California -- a golf tournament -- and it's been extremely successful," Johnson said Friday during the announcement in the Daytona International Speedway media center. "The fundraising takes place in California, and with us living in North Carolina, we just felt like we needed to put on an event, or some events, in North Carolina to do fundraising there."

Johnson observes an extremely athletic lifestyle that includes distance running, swimming and cycling. He and wife Chani decided to model the Wellness Challenge after their own interests.

"We just felt like there was a great way to tie in fitness, wellness, making sure that you're healthy and active … from a beginner all the way to an advanced athlete."

For more details, visit www.jimmiejohnsonfoundation.org.


Dale Earnhardt Jr. was fastest among 18 drivers in the opening practice for Saturday night's Sprint Unlimited at Daytona. The driver of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet turned a lap at 198.421 mph to pace the field.

Tony Stewart, returning to action for the first time since Aug. 5 after breaking his right leg in a sprint car accident in Iowa, was 10th fastest at 197.377 mph.

Jimmie Johnson did not join in the draft in the opening session, preferring to concentrate on single-car runs. The six-time champion was last on the speed chart, but that should not be construed as an omen for the race itself.

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