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