What to watch for Darlington will be a critical test for the Car of Tomorrow, as it is the first banked intermediate track to use the new ride. Always one of the toughest courses on the Cup schedule, Darlington will be even more of a challenge this season, especially if the Car of Tomorrow leads to increased passing opportunities as hoped.
Hendrick, Roush and Evernham should have an advantage since each fields at least three competitive teams capable of working together to pull off a victory.
The last four races at Darlington have been shared by two drivers, with Greg Biffle winning in 2005 and '06, while Jimmie Johnson took the checkered flag twice in 2004. Both Biffle and Johnson should contend once again in 2007 if their new cars cooperate.
There was a time when Jeff Gordon was the man to beat at Darlington; he won five of the seven South Carolina races between 1995-98, then again in September 2002. The 24 car is still a force, with back-to-back runner-up finishes to Biffle, along with a third in November 2004.
There is plenty of uncertainty at the 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval this year, so a savvy veteran driver like Dale Jarrett, Sterling Marlin, Joe Nemechek or Bobby Labonte could sneak into Victory Lane as an underdog.
Another sleeper, if he can ever be called that, is Tony Stewart. While the Home Depot Chevy has never finished better than fourth at Darlington, Stewart has proven his ability to win with just about any make or model of car.
Keep an eye on... Carl Edwards -- In Edwards' first trip to The Track Too Tough to Tame, in 2005, he brought her home in ninth place. Last season he slumped to 39th.
Denny Hamlin -- Get these stats: In his lone Cup start at Darlington, Hamlin finished 10th. In three Busch Series starts, he has runs of first (2006), seventh ('05) and eighth ('04).
Mark Martin -- Hopefully, Bobby Ginn will spare Regan Smith the pain of running at Darlington in the Cup event. Assuming Martin is in the car, he is a heck of a sleeper pick. Martin may be the only part-timer to get a win on the circuit in years.
Ryan Newman -- Although the Alltel team has been off the last year and a half, Newman consistently runs well at Darlington as his sixth- and fifth-place finishes in the last two visits prove. The one question is whether the COT will knock this team for a total loop.