Thoughts and observations heading into Darlington:

One of the reasons that Darlington is such a challenging track is that turns one and two are completely different than turns three and four. The first two are sweeping and the second two are tight. Since the track was repaved, tire wear has become less of a factor. Drivers say it is still fun to drive, but not as fun as it used to be.

Kyle Busch won this race last year. And he’s feeling all kinds of confident right now.

To win, Busch and everyone else will have to go through Jeff Gordon, who has seven wins and 16 top fives in 28 starts.

Is this the week it all comes together for Dale Earnhardt Jr.? He has finished eighth or better at the last four races at Darlington.

There is a good chance Ryan Newman will keep his hot streak alive this weekend. He has five top fives in ten races at the Lady in Black.

Looking for a long shot? Jamie McMurray has three top tens in eight starts. Kevin Harvick has four top tens in 12 starts. And Kasey Kahne has two top fives in six starts.

Note: No live-blog this Saturday due to an unbreakable family commitment. Enjoy the race. And feel free to check out:

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