By Jerry Bonkowski and Bob Moore
24 JEFF GORDON, Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: Jeff Gordon climbed three spots, from fourth to first place after Monday's rain-delayed race at Texas. He leads second-ranked Matt Kenseth by four points and third-ranked Carl Edwards by 12 points.
DARLINGTON RECORD: 33 career starts, 7 wins, 19 top-5s, 22 top-10s, 3 poles. Best career finish: First in summer 1995, spring 1996, summer 1996, summer 1997, summer 1998, summer 2002, spring 2007. Finished third in this race last year and was 35th in the 2012 race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Gordon is still in search of his first win of 2014. He came close at Texas, but even without the win, still managed to jump to the top of the Sprint Cup points standings. Here's his thoughts on Darlington, one of his best tracks: "The first time I drove there, it reminded me of a couple of sprint car tracks - tracks like Winchester (Ind.) Speedway - that are super-fast but you have to respect it or it could ruin your day. Darlington is just a cool, fast place - you get that sensation of speed there because you run right up next to the wall. And the track drives you. At other places, we are typically trying to put the car in specific spots on the track. At Darlington, the track naturally feeds you to a certain area which is right up next to the wall. Success always starts with the race team and the race car, and I've had good ones here. Another key to success at Darlington is being able to push the limits of the car and the track, and keeping it on that edge without going over. At Darlington, it's very easy to go over the edge."
LOOKING BACK: Gordon had the car to win, led 40 laps, but on the final restart lost the lead and came up just a bit short to Joey Logano this past Monday at Texas.
ETC.: Gordon has completed 93.9 percent (10,350) of the 11,023 total laps contested in 33 career starts at Darlington. His average start there is an outstanding 6.8 and his average finish is an excellent 11.5. He has six DNF's there.
20 MATT KENSETH, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: For the second consecutive week, Matt Kenseth remained in second place in the Sprint Cup standings. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by four points and leads third-ranked Carl Edwards by eight points.
DARLINGTON RECORD: 20 career starts, 1 wins, 2 top-5s, 9 top-10s, 1 poles. Best career finish: First in 2013. Finished first in this race last year and was sixth in the 2012 race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Kenseth is still seeking his first win of 2014, and being defending winner at Darlington gives him a leg up for this Saturday's race there.
LOOKING BACK: Kenseth didn't lead any laps and finished seventh at Texas. "We just didn't qualify well and then we just really struggled," Kenseth said. "So, were just really far off. We were really loose. We got a little bit better, but really nothing we could compete with."
ETC.: Kenseth has completed 96.7 percent (6,616) of the 6,841 total laps contested in 20 career starts at Darlington. His average start there is 20.8 and his average finish is 16.6. He has one DNF there.
99 CARL EDWARDS, Ford
Team: Roush Fenway Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Carl Edwards remained in third-place in the Sprint Cup standings after Texas. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 12 points, is eight points behind second-ranked Matt Kenseth and leads fourth-ranked Joey Logano by 12 points.
DARLINGTON RECORD: 10 career starts, 0 wins, 3 top-5s, 7 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Second in 2008 and 2011. Finished seventh in this race last year and was seventh in the 2012 race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Edwards is looking for his first career win at Darlington and his second win of the season this Saturday.
LOOKING BACK: After finishing 13th at Martinsville the week before, Edwards finished 14th at Texas.
ETC.: Edwards has completed 96.2 percent (3,538) of the 3,677 total laps contested in 10 career starts at Darlington. His average start there is 15.9 and his average finish is an excellent 12.5. He has one DNF there.
22 JOEY LOGANO, Ford
Team: Penske Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: After winning Monday at Texas, Joey Logano climbed four places in the standings, from eighth to fourth. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 24 points, is 12 points behind third-ranked Carl Edwards and leads fifth-ranked Kyle Busch by four points.
DARLINGTON RECORD: 5 career starts, 0 wins, 0 top-5s, 2 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Ninth in 2009. Finished 22nd in this race last year and was 10th in the 2012 race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: Logano became the seventh different winner in as many races with his win Monday at Texas. Here's his thoughts on Darlington: "It is definitely one of those places where you find yourself out of breath when you take the checkered flag. I remember the first time I did a qualifying lap at Darlington as a rookie and I got out of the car and was just shaking. I think my first words were 'whoa' when it was all finished. And we qualified fifth that year. You are right on the edge, trying to go as fast as possible, just inches from the wall. It makes you a little jittery. I heard it was even crazier before they repaved it as well, although since they repaved it, the speeds are up. But it feels really good when you finish and you see that you have posted a really good lap time. But it takes all of your focus for that lap that's for sure."
LOOKING BACK: Logano led 108 of 340 laps at Texas. He had an outstanding jump on the final restart and overtook Jeff Gordon on the final lap to earn the victory.
ETC.: Logano has completed 96.8 percent (1,781) of the 1,839 total laps contested in five career starts at Darlington. His average start is 17.2 and average finish is 20.6. He has zero DNFs there.
18 KYLE BUSCH, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: Kyle Busch continued to move up in the standings, gaining one spot from sixth to fifth following Monday's race at Texas. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 28 points, is four points behind fourth-ranked Joey Logano and leads the sixth-place tie of Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. by three points each.
DARLINGTON RECORD: 9 career starts, 1 win, 2 top-5s, 5 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: First in 2008. Finished sixth in this race last year and was fourth in the 2012 race there.
LOOKING AHEAD: As an avid student of NASCAR's past history, Kyle Busch loves returning to Darlington Raceway, the second-oldest track on the NASCAR circuit. He not only loves racing there, but has been very successful. Here's his thoughts on Saturday's race: "Going back to Darlington, it's a place that's really tough, really challenging. ... I'm looking forward to going back there and seeing what Darlington has got in store for us again. I'm hearing that the track color has changed a little bit more with another year for the surface to mature, so maybe the grip level is not going to be old Darlington, but something similar."
LOOKING BACK: Busch led 10 laps at Texas. Had he not washed up the racetrack on the final lap, he may have had a shot at the win, but wound up with a still respectable third-place finish.
ETC.: Busch has completed 97.2 percent (3,216) of the 3,310 total laps contested in nine career starts at Darlington. His average start there is 16.9 and average finish is 14.4. He has zero DNFs there.
48 JIMMIE JOHNSON, Chevrolet
Team: Hendrick Motorsports
WHERE HE STANDS: Jimmie Johnson fell one spot in the Sprint Cup standings, into a tie for sixth-place with teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., after his disappointing 25th-place finish at Texas. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 31 points, is three points behind fifth-ranked Kyle Busch and is 10 points ahead of eighth-ranked Brad Keselowski.