NASCAR INSIDER

The pairing of Martin Truex Jr. and Furniture Row Racing seemed like a winning combination when it was announced last fall.

Truex qualified for the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup only to have his berth taken away because of points-manipulating shenanigans by his old team, Michael Waltrip Racing. And Furniture Row, a single-car team based in Denver, made the 2013 Chase with driver Kurt Busch, who wound up bolting to Stewart-Haas Racing.

But this season, Truex and his team can’t seem to get a break. He fell out of the season-opening Daytona 500 with engine issues and finished 43rd. On Sunday at Sonoma Raceway, where he was the defending race winner, he was involved in a Lap 1 wreck and had to battle back for a 15th-place finish. In between, he’s had three top-10 finishes and no top-fives. He heads into Saturday’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway 25th in points and needing a win to make this year’s Chase.

“Right now it’s going to be a victory that will get us into the Chase, not where we stand in points,” said Truex, who will turn 34 on Sunday, in a team release. “I feel Kentucky is a track that can deliver that elusive win. Without question, that would be the best birthday present.”

Past results offer hope to the veteran driver. He’s finished in the top eight in the past two races at Kentucky.

Kentucky only track not on Gordon’s list: Jeff Gordon, whose 89 Sprint Cup victories top all active drivers, could add another personal accomplishment to his already stellar record this weekend. If he were to win at Kentucky on Saturday it would give him at least one win at all 23 tracks on the current Cup schedule. His record also includes wins at speedways in Rockingham and North Wilkesboro, N.C., that no longer host NASCAR races.

It’s not that Gordon runs poorly at Kentucky. The track has hosted only three Cup races since joining the schedule when Speedway Motorsports Inc. took one of Atlanta Motor Speedway’s two races dates and moved it to the Sparta track. Gordon finished 10th, fifth and eighth in his three Kentucky starts.

Nuances of asphalt: Kentucky Speedway has been billing itself as the roughest track in NASCAR, and drivers generally agree that it’s a true statement. But Kentucky’s defending winner Matt Kenseth, points out that there’s a difference in worn asphalt, which drivers love because it makes for better racing, and rough pavement, which does not necessarily put on a better show.

“I think it’s kind of two different things,” Kenseth said on this week’s NASCAR teleconference. “I think the tracks being worn out, the pavement losing grip so you can slide around more and tires drop off more and new tires are a big reward, that’s the kind of stuff I think we all like as drivers or I think a lot of us are under the opinion that makes better racing, more passing, that type of thing.

“Just being bumpy doesn’t necessarily do that, but (Kentucky officials) definitely are not lying. It’s definitely the roughest track in NASCAR. It’s really, really bumpy, but I think there’s a couple lanes there you can pass.”

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