COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Sprint Cup star Kasey Kahne doesn't see the big deal about a weekend off. Then again, not everyone's had his success running trucks at Darlington Raceway.
Kahne could've done what most of his Cup competitors will do after Las Vegas last week and sit back before cranking up their machines at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 20. Instead, Kahne will try for his second Camping World Truck Series victory at Darlington in as many starts.
``I mean, the season just started and we just came off a long break,'' Kahne said. ``I'm not ready to stop racing and this is just good timing.''
Kahne, who'll drive Saturday night for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Too Tough To Tame 200, won at Darlington in his truck debut in 2004. He followed that up a week later with another truck victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Kahne returned to the truck series last July at Pocoono and led 17 of 55 laps before finishing second to Elliott Sadler.
So when Kahne saw he could make it for Darlington, it didn't take long to say yes.
``It's a good series that I enjoy taking part in,'' Kahne said.
And a circuit criss-crossed with skilled veterans and young up-and-comers eager to make a mark with the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series on a break.
``It is unreal, the competition in our series. I love it,'' said Matt Crafton, a 10-year truck veteran and current points leader.
Kahne certainly ups the ante at Darlington. Besides his truck victory seven years ago, he has three poles and two top 5s in his eight Sprint Cup starts. Kahne's also finished in the top 10 three times on the Nationwide Series here.
Kahne, 30, has gradually learned the ins and outs of the tricky, 1.366-mile oval. Turns one and two are completely different from three and four, so paying attention to competitors instead of the track can cost you dearly.
``You can learn to feel good over this track,'' Kahne says. ``But it takes a while.''
Experience generally pays off at ``The Lady in Black.'' Just look at Todd Bodine, last year's Darlington winner who went on to take the 2010 series championship.
Bodine led the race's final 47 laps and held off pole-sitter Timothy Peters in the final two restarts to win. Bodine, who estimated he turned 6,700 laps at Darlington, says knowing the little things here make the difference.
Crafton remembers in last year's race, Darlington's first truck event since 2004, when Bodine passed him late on the way to victory.
``I remember saying to myself at that point, 'Wow. That just helped me. I'm doing that next lap,''' Crafton said. ``So he's the one to watch here, and he just performs so well at this track.''
Peters hopes the experience he picked up last year helps him edge the field at Darlington. Besides finishing second to Bodine in the race last August, Peters was part of a Goodyear Tire test session held at the old country track five months earlier. The seat time gave Peters the chance to get a feel for Darlington's grippy surface - the gravely track was repaved in 2008 - and helped him win the pole and stay close to Bodine down the stretch.
Peters spoke with Bodine's racing brother, Brett, who briefed the 30-year-old on the difficulties of getting in and out of Darlington's narrow first corner. You have to treat it like three separate parts instead of two turns, Peters explained. ``That helped me a tremendous amount,'' he said.
Sadler, racing in the Nationwide Series this season, is also giving up a free weekend to go truck racing. This will be his 13th career Camping World Truck series start and his first time in a truck at Darlington, where he's had plenty of experience in other machines. Other veterans familiar with the track ``Too Tough To Tame'' include Mike Skinner, Ron Hornaday Jr. and Travis Kvapil.
Darlington president Chris Browning heard only positives about the track from truck teams after last summer's event. ``Probably because they didn't have the huge tire bill like they used to when this place was really abrasive,'' Browning joked.
Kahne's simply glad to have a place to race. It's a bonus that it's somewhere he knows so well and might even help him when the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series return here next Mother's Day weekend.
``I don't think it can hurt for us to learn a little more,'' Kahne said. ``Getting a few more laps here is always a good thing.''

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