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Saturday, April 12, 2014
Kyle Busch projected to win at Darlington

By Trevor Ebaugh, ESPN Stats & Info

Here are the projections for Saturday's Sprint Cup race at Darlington. Our projection system takes into account, among other factors, drivers’ past performances at the current track, pre-race on-track activity (practices and qualifying) and probability of finishing the race. All of the data is then adjusted for the track type (in this case, a 1.366 -mile oval) and time of year.

Joey Logano heads to Darlington with momentum after earning his fourth career Cup win Monday. He’s the seventh consecutive different winner to start the year, the first season with seven different winners to start a season since 2003, which started with nine straight different winners.

Logano won in dramatic fashion, getting by Jeff Gordon on the final lap in Fort Worth, a move that’s becoming a trend this season. It was the third last-lap pass by a winner this year, joining Brad Keselowski at Las Vegas and Kyle Busch at California.

Darlington has been relatively unpredictable lately. The track has seen a run of eight consecutive different winners, with Matt Kenseth winning last season, but what’s truly been tough to predict is where the winner will come from. No driver has won from pole here since Dale Jarrett in 1997, while two drivers have won from the 37th starting position since then.

Denny Hamlin is among the drivers to beat at Darlington. His 5.4 career average finish here is the best all-time, as well as his best at any Cup track. He’s also finished in the top 10 in seven of his eight career starts. He’s finished second at Darlington in each of the past two seasons.

A pair of Hendrick drivers could also challenge for the victory. Jeff Gordon, who leads the standings for the 1st time since 2009, is one of those drivers, with seven career Cup wins at Darlington, the third-most all-time behind David Pearson (10) and Dale Earnhardt (9). A usual suspect, Jimmie Johnson, is the other, with 11 top-10 finishes in 15 Cup starts at Darlington.