By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

Distributed by The Sports Xchange

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.

"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.