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DARLINGTON

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DARLINGTON

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THREE THINGS TO WATCH

Kevin Harvick in the No. 4 Ford leads the field past the green flag at the start of the 2017 Southern 500 at historic Darlington Raceway. [AP/TERRY RENNA]

1. Historic stretch

The next two weekends of racing will be full of motorsports history and lore. The NASCAR Cup Series has been racing at Darlington Raceway since 1950 and returns to the track “too tough to tame” for its annual throwback racing weekend. After competitors race in South Carolina, it is on to Indianapolis, which is hosting its 25th Cup Series race, known as the Brickyard

400. Indy has hosted racing for more than 100 years.

2. Smell of desperation

With only two regular-season NASCAR Cup Series races left in the regular season, there is desperation spreading through the garage area. Twelve playoff positions have been clinched, leaving only four openings for the postseason. Alex Bowman is on the points bubble with a 79-point cushion on Ricky Stenhouse Jr. But should Stenhouse or any driver outside the points wall win, Bowman would not make the playoffs.

3. Championship battle

On the other end of the points spectrum are Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick bat tling for the regular-season Cup Series championship. The winner of that title will earn 15 of those golden playoff points, which drivers carry over from one knockout round to the next. Busch has a 43-point lead on Harvick. Martin Truex Jr. had a pile of playoff points that he used as a safety net to carry him to the 2017 Cup Series championship.