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Joe Gibbs Racing: 2014 Southern 500 weekend preview

Matt Kenseth is the defending Southern 500 champ
Matt Kenseth is the defending Southern 500 champ
Getty Images: Rainier Ehrhardt

The eighth race on the 2014 Sprint Cup Series schedule is the historic Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, the “Track Too Tough to Tame,” on Saturday night, April 12th. All three of Joe Gibbs Racing’s Cup Series drivers have wins in the race, and this weekend Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin will each look for their second trip to victory lane at Darlington.

Busch, driving the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota Camry Saturday night, won at Darlington in 2008, his first season with JGR. Busch has five top 10 finishes in the Cup Series in starts, and has led laps in the last six races at the 1.366-mile track. He’ll also be competing in Friday night’s Nationwide Series VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 in the No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota Camry; Busch is the two-time defending race winner in the series and has a total of five top 10 finishes in nine Nationwide Series races at Darlington.

Kenseth, in the No. 20 Home Depot/Husky Tools Toyota on Saturday, is the defending race winner of the Southern 500 and still looking for his first win of the season. Kenseth has nine top 10 finishes in 20 races at Darlington and an average finish of 16.6 in the Cup Series. In the Nationwide Series, Kenseth, who will drive the No. 20 GameStop/Call of Duty: Ghosts Toyota in the race on Friday, has three wins and 13 top 10 finishes in 17 starts at Darlington; last year, he finished fifth in the race.

Hamlin, in the No. 11 Sport Clips Toyota on Saturday, has the best average finish of any active driver in the Cup Series at Darlington – 5.4. Hamlin won the Southern 500 in 2010, and has seven top 10 finishes in eight starts – his worst finish is 13th.

Elliott Sadler will join Busch and Kenseth in the Nationwide Series race on Friday, driving the No. 11 Sport Clips Toyota. Sadler has four top 10 finishes in 10 starts in the series at Darlington, with his best finish coming last year when he finished second to Busch. Sadler has also made 18 Cup Series starts at Darlington, with a best finish of second in 2002 for Wood Brothers Racing.

Qualifying for the Nationwide Series VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 takes place at 4:05 p.m. ET on Friday, followed by the race at 8 p.m. ET. Qualifying for the Southern 500 takes place Friday at 6:05 p.m. ET; the race goes green on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. ET. Keep up with the action at joegibbsracing.com.

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