NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
 
           === Kenseth, Johnson aiming for first wins this season ===
 
 Darlington,  SC (SportsNetwork.com) - Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth finished
 1-2,  respectively, in  the 2013 SprintCup Series point standings and combined
 for 13 wins during the 36-race season.
 
 This  season  has  begun  with  seven different  winners  in  as  many  races.
 Surprisingly, Johnson and Kenseth have yet to drive into victory lane.
 
 Last Monday, Joey Logano won at Texas -- a race delayed one day due to rain --
 and  joined  Dale Earnhardt  Jr. (Daytona 500),  Kevin Harvick (Phoenix), Brad
 Keselowski  (Las Vegas),  Carl Edwards (Bristol), Kyle Busch (Fontana, Calif.)
 and  Kurt  Busch (Martinsville) as  those drivers  who have all but guaranteed
 themselves a position in this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
 
 Those who win during the 26-race regular season, which concludes on Sept. 6 at
 Richmond,  get first  dibs on  spots in  the expanded  (16 drivers/teams)  and
 revamped Chase format.
 
 The  current streak of different race winners is the longest to start a season
 since 2003 when there were nine different winners in the first nine races. The
 record is 10, set in 2000.
 
 With  NASCAR making radical changes to the Chase and some modifications to the
 Sprint  Cup cars,  it comes as no  surprise to Kenseth the number of different
 winners to begin this season.
 
 "I can't say I'm totally shocked," Kenseth said. "I think whenever you throw a
 pretty  big rules  change at everybody some  people are going to pick up on it
 sooner  than  others. I  think it always  spreads the field  out a little bit,
 because  some guys  are going to hit it  and some guys are going to miss it. I
 think  that always creates passing and mixes the field up and makes the racing
 more interesting in my mind.
 
 "I think that everybody every week is probably gaining on it, and the field is
 going  to get  closer together as we  keep rolling through the year here. It's
 been  interesting, because  there has been a lot of different winners and been
 some guys that have won a lot that haven't won yet. It has been an interesting
 year for sure."
 
 The  series runs its eighth race of the season on Saturday night at Darlington
 Raceway. The Southern 500 at Darlington had been scheduled on the night before
 Mother's Day from 2005-13 but was switched to the second weekend in April this
 year. Kansas Speedway will host a night race for the first time on May 10, the
 day before Mother's Day.
 
 Kenseth  won  last year's race  at Darlington.  His Joe Gibbs Racing teammate,
 Kyle Busch, dominated the event by leading 265 of 367 laps, but Busch suffered
 a  punctured right-rear tire in the closing laps, allowing Kenseth to pass him
 for the lead.
 
 It  was the first time Kenseth had won the famed Southern 500, a race that has
 been on the Cup Series schedule each year since 1950.
 
 "It  was a really big win," he said. "It was exciting, and it didn't look like
 we were going to win. Kyle had that problem late, and we were able to sneak by
 him  there with 10  [laps] to go or something like that. It was a big week for
 us,  and it was really, really cool to be able to finally win the Southern 500
 for sure."
 
 Johnson,  the six-time  and defending Sprint Cup champion, has three victories
 at Darlington, including two in the Southern 500 (2004 and '12). He also won a
 400-mile race here in March of '04.
 
 Two  years ago,  Johnson's win  in the  Southern 500  marked the  200th career
 victory  for  Hendrick Motorsports.  HMS joined Petty  Enterprises as the only
 teams with 200 or more victories in NASCAR's premier series.
 
 "Darlington  has been a great track for us over the years," Johnson said. "The
 most memorable was winning the 200th for Hendrick Motorsports a few years ago.
 From  a track  standpoint, Darlington  has  character, so  track position  and
 strategy  will be pretty important. There is a ton of history and a great race
 for the fans to watch. It's a high speed track. It's one of my favorites."
 
 Forty-four teams are on the entry list for the Bojangles' Southern 500.
 
 Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup. Date: Saturday, April 12. Race: Bojangles' Southern
 500. Site: Darlington Raceway. Track: 1.366-mile oval. Start time: 6:30 p.m.
 ET. Laps: 367. Miles: 501.3. 2013 Winner: Matt Kenseth. Television: FOX.
 Radio: Motor Racing Network (MRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.
 
 04/11 16:07:48 ET

TEST CONTENT