NASCAR at Darlington 2014: Latest NASCAR Team News, Top Drivers and More

R. Cory Smith@@RCorySmithSenior Writer IApril 9, 2014

DARLINGTON, SC - MAY 11:  Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 The Home Depot / Husky Toyota, celebrates with the trophy and his crew  in Victory Lane during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on May 11, 2013 in Darlington, South Carolina.  (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)
Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images

Seven for Seven. After seven weekends of NASCAR races, the Sprint Cup series has provided just as many winners as races thus far.

NASCAR fans have been in for a treat with the parity over nearly the first two months, and that trend looks likely to continue with the drivers that have yet to claim wins.    

Huge names like Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth still haven't taken a checkered flag to this point, and are all eager to get the first one out of the way to solidify a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

As for fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr., the Hendrick Motorsports driver is looking for redemption at Darlington after a disappointing result at Texas, wrecking after just 13 laps.

With the shortened week after a Monday race in Texas followed by the first Saturday night race this weekend, here's a look at Bojangles' Southern 500 information along with the latest team news and top drivers for the race.

2014 Sprint Cup Standings
Pos.DriverCarPointsWinsTop 5Top 10
1Jeff Gordon24259035
2Matt Kenseth20255015
3Carl Edwards99247124
4Joey Logano22235144
5Kyle Busch18231123
6Dale Earnhardt Jr.88228144
7Jimmie Johnson48228024
8Brad Keselowski2218133
9Brian Vickers55205013
10Paul Menard27203014

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

What: Bojangles’ Southern 500

Where: Darlington Raceway, Darlington, S.C.

When: Saturday, April 12, 6:30 p.m. (ET) 

TV: Fox

Radio: MRN, Sirius XM Ch. 90

Live Stream: Fox Sports Go

Distance: 501.3 miles (367 laps)

Latest Team News'videoId=3442509859001

While no driver has visited Victory Lane more than once, there are two teams thus far with multiple wins.

Following the victory on Sunday for Joey Logano, Team Penske has a win from both of its drivers with Brad Keselowski navigating his way past the field at Las Vegas.

Larry McReynolds of Fox Sports shares his thoughts on the team along with Logano's performance and outlook this season:

With his victory Monday afternoon at Texas Motor Speedway, Joey Logano has established himself as a championship contender early on in the 2014 season. There is no question that Team Penske as a whole has its arms around this new rules package here in the early going.

Joey and his teammate Brad Keselowski have been fast at every track we've been to so far this year. Brad already has a win and now Joey has joined him in the victory ranks. They both have been fast in practice. They've already won poles. We all knew it was more a question of when, not if, Joey would win this year.

What the win for Penske also does is essentially guarantee two spots in the Chase for the duo with 19 races still remaining before NASCAR's playoff gets underway. Brad Keselowski spoke about what that means for the entire team, per Bob Pockrass of Sporting News:

It’s huge. It’s absolutely huge. It allows us to dedicate our approach to Homestead and the Chase races. We’re very fortunate. We haven’t burned any of our team tests, and now that we’ve got both cars in the Chase, we can just burn through those on the Chase tracks. That’s a pretty healthy advantage.

That advantage is one shared by just one other team in Stewart-Haas Racing. Despite the team's struggles at several tracks this season—Kevin Harvick's luck is beginning to get sad—both Harvick and Kurt Busch have wins while Tony Stewart posted his third top-10 in the last four races at Texas.

Thanks to their multiple wins on the year, both SHR and Penske sit in a good position through seven races and can continue to build on the season with the Chase still several months away from starting.

Top Drivers

Jimmie Johnson

The question is starting to become repetitive for the No. 48 driver—when will he get his first victory on the season?

A quick look at Johnson's career statistics at Darlington prove that he might be primed for his first in South Carolina. After winning consecutive races at the track back in 2004, Johnson took the checkered flag yet again in 2012.

"Mr. Six-Time" also has a total of 11 top-10s at the track in just 15 starts. Then there's the fact that he's running a familiar chassis, one that nearly got him a win at Las Vegas where he led 34 laps, as Team Lowe's Racing points out:

Easily the most dominant driver of this generation and potentially ever, Johnson's dance with the "Lady in Black" this weekend will lead to at least another top-10 finish and possibly his first win of the season.

Matt Kenseth'videoId=2374995141001

In 20 starts at Darlington, Matt Kenseth has just one win. But with that lone victory coming last season, Kenseth comes in with confidence at the track known as "Too Tough to Tame."

Along with that visit to Victory Lane, Kenseth also has two top-fives and nine top-10s at the track. In his last eight races at Darlington, Kenseth has posted five top-10s and both of those top-fives. Needless to say, Kenseth appears to be another driver that has nearly tamed the beast.

Without a win this season, the seven-time winner from last year hasn't experienced the same amount of success. But thanks to his five top-10 finishes, Kenseth is still comfortable with his team and car through seven races, per Jim Utter of the Charlotte Observer:

I’ve been asked a few times about having a slow start, and we’re like nine points out of the lead. So, it’s kind of funny the way it works. I feel confident. I feel good.

I feel like it’s been a little more challenging this year with the teams to get caught up with these new rules because your set-ups are just different. We don’t have the same baseline we had last year. I feel like every week we keep improving, and we keep getting closer.

Perhaps one of the best drivers from last season, Kenseth's consistent success will eventually lead to another win for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver.

Greg Biffle

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 22:  Greg Biffle, driver of the #16 3M Ford, stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 22, 2014 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by S
Sean Gardner/Getty Images

It's been nearly eight years since Greg Biffle won his last race at Darlington, but the Roush Fenway driver has the third-highest driver rating at the track at 107.5.

In the last six races in South Carolina, Biffle has led a total of 286 laps, but has failed to come out on top in any of them. With the way that Fords have been running as of late—including Penske's drivers and Carl Edwards—another win could be on the way from Biffle.

Along with the top three drivers, Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin are two other racers to watch for with both holding a driver rating higher than Biffle's. With five of the best drivers coming into Darlington without wins, expect the streak to move to eight in a row with another car doing donuts down south.

Follow R. Cory Smith on Twitter. He goes four wide into every turn.


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