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Posted: Thursday, April 10th 2014 at 2:14am

NASCAR Preview: Gordon nabs points lead, on verge of victory

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Jeff Gordon (24) races with Kurt Busch (41) during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway. Gordon leaves Monday's race at Texas Motor Speedway with the series points lead. / Photo: Jerry Markland/NASCAR via Getty Images
DARLINGTON, SC - For the first time in half a decade – 174 races for those counting – Jeff Gordon holds the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points lead. His last points lead came after the 2009 Coca-Cola 600, following a start to the season that saw a win and two runner-ups in the first seven races.

He’s enjoying similar success this year, scoring four consecutive top 10s to start the season. His runner-up finish at Texas gives him three top fives this season. He had eight all of last year.

What does all this mean? Well, possibly nothing if he doesn’t win a race.

With seven winners in the first seven races, available spots in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup are rapidly depleting. Only nine spots remain in the 16-driver playoff field.

One of those could go to the points leader, if winless. So, Gordon has that going for him, which is nice.

But a win would put him on much firmer ground when the Chase field is set following Richmond in September. And this weekend’s race at Darlington Raceway seems as good a time as any for the breakthrough victory.

A seven-time Darlington winner, Gordon finished third in last year’s Darlington race. From 2004-2010, Gordon strung together a streak of seven consecutive top-five Darlington finishes.

WDUN will have live coverage from MRN Radio of Saturday night's Bojangles Southern 500 from Darlington Raceway in Darlington, SC beginning at 5:30 pm on 102.9 FM and 550 AM.

NASCAR Nationwide Series: Youth Is Served At Texas With Elliott Victory

There is something to be said about the advantages of young age, and it was on full display Friday night in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway. Four of the top-10 finishers in the race were 22-years old or younger, including winner Chase Elliott.

Elliott became the second-youngest driver to win a NASCAR Nationwide Series race, accomplishing the feat at 18 years, four months and seven days. Joey Logano holds the record at 18 years and 21 days when he won the June 2008 event at Kentucky Speedway.

Elliott’s win allowed him to overtake JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith and Trevor Bayne atop the championship standings to become the youngest points leader in series history. Heading into Darlington, the 18-year-old Dawsonville, Georgia driver has a two-point advantage over Smith. Ty Dillon, Elliott Sadler and Bayne round out the top five.

Regardless of whether his lead in the championship points race remains, he holds a 12-point lead over fellow rookie Dillon in the race for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year.

Arriving in Texas for the sixth race of 2014, Elliott, the son of former NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Bill Elliott, had already proved to many that he has the talent to run competitively every week and that racing indeed runs in his blood. After finishing a respectable 15th in the season opener at Daytona, the younger Elliott has rattled off five consecutive top-10 finishes.

Elliott’s team, JR Motorsports, is also having a stellar start to the season. In fact, the organization is off to the best start in its 10-year history with both of their full-time drivers having already notched victories. Smith won at Daytona.

A JR Motorsports driver has led the points standings after every race this season. Smith held the lead by himself after the first four races, before sharing the points lead with Bayne after the fifth race at Auto Club Speedway.

WDUN will have live coverage from MRN Radio of Friday night's NASCAR Nationwide Series Help a Hero 200 from Darlington Raceway in Darlington, SC beginning at 7:30 pm on 102.9 FM and 550 AM.

NASCAR Camping World Trucks: Can Wins Pile Up For Champion Crafton

Maybe the long winless droughts are over for Matt Crafton.

The defending NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Matt Crafton picked up his fourth career win last weekend at Martinsville and the victory ended a 19-race winless streak for the California driver, after last visiting Victory Lane at Kansas Speedway in April 2013.

Crafton hopes to make it two in a row at Kansas Speedway in early May, which would be a first at any track for the veteran.

Crafton's longest break between two wins is 79 races (Charlotte 2008 – Iowa 2011). If he can pick up the win in the SFP 250, he would also become the first driver to win multiple races at the track. There have been 13 different winners in as many races at Kansas Speedway.

If Crafton can take home the checkered flag at Kansas he would become the first driver to win back-to-back races on the schedule since Kyle Busch accomplished the feat last year with wins at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Dover International Speedway. Crafton has never won consecutive races.

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