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Darlington race special for Elliott

Bill Elliott has enjoyed more success than most NASCAR drivers at the track called "Too Tough to Tame."

Elliott, 47, will be back Sunday at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina for his 700th Winston Cup race, attempting to win for the sixth time there.

Winning once more at Darlington, considered the hardest oval on drivers and machinery on the NASCAR circuit, would be a huge accomplishment for Elliott. Critics said he was all but washed up after the 2000 season, his sixth straight without a victory. Since then he has won three races.

"Darlington has been pretty good to me through the years," said Elliott, the 1988 Winston Cup champion. "Winning back there in 1985 (the Southern 500) was certainly one of the highlights of my career."

Among active drivers, only Jeff Gordon, with six, has more victories there than Elliott. David Pearson, with 10, is the all-time leader.

Although his last victory at Darlington came in 1994 in a Ford owned by Junior Johnson, Elliott was competitive at the track last year, finishing third in his No. 9 Dodge in the fall race and 10th in the spring.

"I've been running good there recently," Elliott said. "If we have good pit stops Sunday and stay out of trouble, I think we can get the job done."

Elliott is off to a slow start this season after finishing 13th in series points last year with two victories. Fast in qualifying, he was 32nd in his first two races, followed by finishes of 14th and 39th. He sits 36th in series points.

It's not where Elliott, who drives for Evernham Motorsports, wants to be. But he thinks he still can win.

"I enjoy being here," said Elliott, who has 43 Winston Cup victories. "And I feel I can still be a good competitor."

And when he can't, he will be the first to say so.

"When I'm having trouble holding up my end, I'll need to go on down the road," he said. "It's a different era. The young guys keep you on your toes."

Elliott, who moved to seventh on the all-time Winston Cup start list in Atlanta last weekend, is proud, but not overwhelmed, by starting No. 700.

Only Richard Petty (1,177), Dave Marcis (882), Darrell Waltrip (809), Ricky Rudd (771), Terry Labonte (749) and Bobby Allison (717) have more.

"I feel very fortunate to be where I am today," said Elliott, who began his Winston Cup career in 1976. "I'm not real big on making a lot out of things like this weekend. But I guess when you sit back and think about it, though, it's something to hang your hat on."

Sunday also will be Elliott's 50th career start at Darlington, where he earned his first Cup pole in 1981. He leads all active drivers with five poles and 21 top-five and 33 top-10 finishes at the track.

Dale Jarrett, in the No. 88 Ford, also will reach a milestone in the Carolina Dodge Dealers 400. He will be starting his 500th Winston Cup race.

Jarrett has three victories _ in 1997, '98 and 2001 _ at Darlington. He also has posted 11 top-five and 13 top-10 finishes there.

Rain cancels qualifying

DARLINGTON, S.C. _ Rain washed out qualifying for the Busch and the Craftsman Truck series Thursday in another wet day at Darlington Raceway.

Stanton Barrett, who won the pole at Las Vegas Motor Speedway two weeks ago, will start up front for the Busch 200 on Saturday as the series set its lineup on owner's points.

"You can't ask for anything better than to start on the pole no matter how you get it," said Barrett, who had his best Busch finish when he was eighth at Las Vegas.

Organizers dried the track and drivers got in some practice before darkness.

Rain has shortened three events and canceled qualifying a couple of times in the past four years at Darlington.

The Craftsman 200, the Truck series' second race of the season to be run today, also was set by owners' points, with Travis Kvapil getting the pole.