Typical Darlington: Rain

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DARLINGTON, S.C. – The rain didn’t go away Friday at Darlington Raceway, and it might not go away all weekend.

Friday’s qualifying for the Southern 500 was rained out, putting NASCAR Winston Cup points leader Sterling Marlin on the pole for the 53rd edition of Sunday’s race.

The rainout marked the second time this season Marlin has started up front because qualifying was canceled. Qualifying for the June Pocono race was also wiped out because of water seepage on the track from rains the previous night.

NASCAR didn’t change Saturday’s schedule, giving Winston Cup teams two 45-minute practices before the Busch Series Gatorade 200.

Marlin qualified 11th in the March race here but started at the rear of the field because of an engine change. That didn’t hamper him, however, as he stormed through the field to win the Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 for his second victory of the season.

“It’s a good spot for us,” Marlin said. “The spring, we started last and won the thing. Darlington always takes a good-handling car. It don’t really matter if you start in the front or the back. If the car drives really good and you can get through the traffic, you’ll be OK. But it’s a plus for us starting up front.”

Mark Martin starts second in Sunday’s 367-lap race, with Bristol winner Jeff Gordon third, Tony Stewart fourth and Jimmie Johnson fifth.

Rusty Wallace starts sixth, with Ricky Rudd seventh, Bill Elliott eighth, Matt Kenseth ninth and Dale Jarrett 10th.

Marlin carries a 95-point lead over Martin into Sunday’s race.

“We brought the same car we won with in the spring,” Marlin said. “Same shocks, springs, swaybar, everything is up under it. Hopefully we’ll get Happy Hour in (Saturday), and we’ll start then and see what we’ve got.”

The forecast for Saturday and Sunday doesn’t look much better, as there is a 50 percent chance for rain both days. NASCAR doesn’t have an open weekend for the rest of the season, so if rain continues into next week, the Southern 500 could be moved until after the Homestead race.

“I hope the weather clears up (Saturday) so we can get our race practice in,” Gordon said. “That’s really the most important part of our weekend, other than race day, is getting the car dialed in in race conditions with the tape off the grille so we can see how it handles in the long run.”

The wipeout of Winston Cup qualifying means there was no on-track activity at Darlington all day. The rain started early Friday morning and wiped out practice and qualifying for both Winston Cup and the Busch Series.

Weather permitting, the Southern 500 gets the green flag at 1 p.m. (ET) Sunday.

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