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NASCAR National Series News & Notes – Darlington Raceway


NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Cook Out Southern 500
The Place: Darlington Raceway
The Date: Sunday, September 6
The Time: 6 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN, 5:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 501.3 miles (367 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 115), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 230), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 367)

NASCAR Xfinity Series
Next Race: Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200
The Place: Darlington Raceway
The Date: Saturday, September 5
The Time: 12:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBC, 12 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 200.1 miles (147 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 45), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 147)

NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series
Next Race: South Carolina Education Lottery 200
The Place: Darlington Raceway
The Date: Sunday, September 6
The Time: 2 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 1:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 200.1 miles (147 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 45), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 147)

NASCAR Cup Series

Playoffs kickoff at the historic Darlington Raceway

For the first-time in its 70-year existence (1950-Present), the historic Darlington Raceway will host the opening event for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, the Cook Out Southern 500 on Sunday at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

2020 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Schedule
Track Dates
Darlington Sunday, September 6, 2020
Richmond Saturday, September 12, 2020
Bristol Saturday, September 19, 2020
Las Vegas Sunday, September 27, 2020
Talladega Sunday, October 4, 2020
Charlotte RC Sunday, October 11, 2020
Kansas Sunday, October 18, 2020
Texas Sunday, October 25, 2020
Martinsville Sunday, November 1, 2020
Phoenix Sunday, November 8, 2020

Darlington Raceway is the fourth different track to host the first race of the NASCAR Cup Series postseason. New Hampshire Motor Speedway hosted the first race of the Playoffs from 2004-2010, then Chicagoland Speedway held the first race of the Playoffs from 2011-2017 and Las Vegas Motor Speedway hosted the first race of the Playoffs from 2018-2019.

Prior to the 2020 season, Darlington Raceway had hosted just one other Playoff race, the penultimate event in the inaugural Playoffs in 2004. The race was won by seven-time series champion and Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson.

Darlington Raceway will become just the second track in the NASCAR Cup Series Modern Era (1972-Present) to have the series compete in points-paying races more than twice in a single season; joining Riverside International Raceway in 1981. Darlington hosted its first two events of 2020 on May 17 (won by Kevin Harvick) and May 20 (won by Denny Hamlin). Darlington Raceway has hosted 118 NASCAR Cup Series races producing 51 different pole winners and 51 different race winners. Jimmie Johnson (2004 sweep, 2012), and Denny Hamlin (2010, 2017, 2020) lead all active drivers in victories at Darlington with three wins each. Eight former Darlington Cup winners are entered this weekend – Johnson (three), Hamlin (three), Kevin Harvick (two), Erik Jones, Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. (each have one).

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. (2016, 2017, 2019) and Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski (2012, 2014, 2018) lead the series in Playoff opener wins with three each.

First Race Of The NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs – Race Winners
Track Playoff Race Winners Date
New Hampshire Kurt Busch Sunday, September 19, 2004
New Hampshire Ryan Newman Sunday, September 18, 2005
New Hampshire Kevin Harvick Sunday, September 17, 2006
New Hampshire Clint Bowyer Sunday, September 16, 2007
New Hampshire Greg Biffle Sunday, September 14, 2008
New Hampshire Mark Martin Sunday, September 20, 2009
New Hampshire Clint Bowyer Sunday, September 19, 2010
Chicago Tony Stewart Monday, September 19, 2011
Chicago Brad Keselowski Sunday, September 16, 2012
Chicago Matt Kenseth Sunday, September 15, 2013
Chicago Brad Keselowski Sunday, September 14, 2014
Chicago Denny Hamlin Sunday, September 20, 2015
Chicago Martin Truex Jr Sunday, September 18, 2016
Chicago Martin Truex Jr Sunday, September 17, 2017
Las Vegas Brad Keselowski Sunday, September 16, 2018
Las Vegas Martin Truex Jr Sunday, September 15, 2019

The winner of the opening race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs has gone on to win the title four times. In 2004 (inaugural Cup Playoffs), Kurt Busch won the opening race of the Playoffs at New Hampshire and went on to win the title. In 2011 (race was delayed until Monday due to rain) Tony Stewart won his first race of the season at Chicago to open the Playoffs. Stewart went on to set the record for the most wins in a Playoff run with five victories and the title. In 2012, Brad Keselowski won the Playoff race at Chicago and went on to win the title. And in 2017, Martin Truex Jr. won the Playoff race at Chicago and went on to win his first championship.

The worst finish in the opening race of the Playoffs by a driver that went on to win the title was Jimmie Johnson’s 39th-place finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the 2006 postseason. The worst finish in the opening Playoff race at Chicago for a driver that went on to win the title was Jimmie Johnson’s 12th-place finish in 2016. The worst finish in the opening race of the Playoffs at Las Vegas by a driver that went on to win the title was Kyle Busch’s 19th-place finish last season.

No non-Playoff driver has ever won the opening race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.

Since the inception of the elimination-style format of the Playoffs in 2014, entering the Playoffs as the No. 1 seed has been the most successful seeding, producing three championships among two drivers – Kyle Busch (2015, 2019) and Martin Truex Jr. (2017). The deepest seed an eventual champion has started the Playoffs was seventh by Kevin Harvick (2014) and Joey Logano (2018).

2020 Playoffs: The Quest for the Bill France Cup

The NASCAR Cup Series Playoff is an ‘elimination-style’ postseason format that is competed over the final 10 races of the year, and includes 16 drivers and four rounds – the Round of 16, the Round of 12, the Round of 8 and the Championship 4.

A quick overview:

A victory in the first 26 races all but guarantees a berth in the 10-race Playoffs. The remaining spots not filled by drivers with wins will be filled by drivers who have gained access to the postseason through points.

The number of Playoff drivers in contention for the championship will decrease after every three Playoff races, from 16 to start; 12 after race No. 3; eight after race No. 6; and four after race No. 9.

The first three races (Nos. 27-29) will be known as the Round of 16; races 30-32 will be known as the Round of 12; races 33-35 will be the Round of 8; and race No. 36 will be the Championship 4.

A win by a championship-eligible driver in any Playoff race automatically clinches the winning driver a spot in the next Playoff round.

Four drivers will enter the Championship 4 race with a chance at the title, with the highest finisher among those four capturing the prestigious NASCAR Cup Series championship and the Bill France Cup.

NASCAR renamed the (Bill France Cup) trophy at the beginning of the season and it pays tribute to Bill France Sr., who founded NASCAR in 1947, as well as his son, Bill France Jr., who elevated the sport to a national phenomenon as the sanctioning body’s chief executive from 1972 to 2003.

"As the sport ushers in a new era, it’s fitting that my father’s name is associated with the highest mark of excellence in our sport," said Jim France, NASCAR Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. "My father and brother’s vision for NASCAR has been realized, many times over, as millions of fans follow and engage each week with the best racing in the world."

Playoff driver performances at the ’Track too Tough to Tame'

It is time for the best of the best in the NASCAR Cup Series to shine as the Playoffs have arrived. The top 16 drivers will battle it out over the next 10 weeks in an ‘elimination-style’ postseason format all kicking off this Sunday at Darlington Raceway at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

This season’s Playoff field is full of talent. Six former series champions have qualified for the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series postseason – Kyle Busch (2015, 2019), Joey Logano (2018), Martin Truex Jr. (2017), Kevin Harvick (2014), Brad Keselowski (2012) and Kurt Busch (2004). Plus, for just the third time in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Era (2004-Present) a Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate has made the postseason – Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer; he joins Denny Hamlin (2006) and Chase Elliott (2016) as the only rookies to accomplish the feat.

Below is a look at the 2020 Playoff Top 16’s career performances at Darlington Raceway heading into this weekend’s postseason event (In order of seeding):

Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet) heads to Darlington ranked first in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings with 2,057 points. This is the California native’s 14th appearance in the postseason. Harvick has won seven races this year – series-most – including the first stop earlier in the season at Darlington Raceway. Harvick has posted two wins, 10 top fives, 14 top 10s and two poles in 25 starts at Darlington. His average finish at the 1.366-mile track is 11.235, sixth-best. He also is ranked in the top five in several key Loop Data categories at Darlington: Average Running Position of 10.948 (fifth-best), Driver Rating of 103.5 (third-best), 363 Fastest Laps Run (series-best) and 4,785 Laps in the Top 15 (79.5%, third-most).

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Joe Gibs Racing Toyota) goes to Darlington ranked second in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings with 2,047 points. This is the Virginia native’s 14th appearance in the postseason. Hamlin is right behind Harvick, winning six races this year – second-most – including the second stop earlier this season at Darlington Raceway. Hamlin has posted three wins, nine top fives, 13 top 10s and one pole in 16 starts at Darlington. His average finish at the egg-shaped track is 7.188, second-best. He also is ranked in the top three in several key Loop Data categories at Darlington: Average Running Position of 8.131 (series-best), Driver Rating of 106.7 (series-best), 304 Fastest Laps Run (third-best), and 5,025 Laps in the Top 15 (88.9%, second-most).

Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Team Penske Ford) heads to Darlington ranked third in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings with 2,029 points. This is the ninth time he has competed in the series’ Playoffs. This season is the fifth consecutive year he has put up three or more wins in the series. Keselowski is no slouch at Darlington either. He has posted one win, five top fives, seven top 10s and one pole in 13 starts. His average finish at the historic track is 10.385, fourth-best. He is also ranked in the top 10 of several key Loop Data categories at Darlington: Average Running Position of 10.685 (fourth-best), Driver Rating of 99.9 (fifth-best), 190 Fastest Laps Run (seventh-best) and 3,330 Laps in the Top 15 (73.2%, ninth-most).

Joe Logano (No. 22 Team Penske Ford) rides into Darlington ranked fourth in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings with 2,022 points. The 2020 Playoffs mark the seventh time Logano has participated in the postseason. He has two wins and six top fives on the year. He has made 13 starts at Darlington amassing three top fives and six top 10s. His average finish at the 1.366-mile track is 15.769, 13th-best. He is also ranked in the top 12 of several key Loop Data categories at Darlington: Average Running Position of 12.695 (eighth-best), Driver Rating of 89.5 (eighth-best), 89 Fastest Laps Run (11th-best) and 3,215 Laps in the Top 15 (70.7%, ninth-most).

Chase Elliott (No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet) arrives at Darlington ranked fifth in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings with 2,020 points. This is the fifth time he has competed in the Playoffs. Elliott has put up two wins and 10 top fives this season. At Darlington, Elliott has collected two top fives, three top 10s in seven starts. His average finish at the egg-shaped track is 18.286, 16th-best. Plus, he is ranked in the top 15 of several key Loop Data categories at Darlington: Average Running Position of 12.513 (seventh-best), Driver Rating of 87.8 (12th-best), 80 Fastest Laps Run (13th-best), 1,659 Laps in the Top 15 (71.0%, 12th-most).

Martin Truex Jr. (No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) lands in Darlington ranked sixth in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings with 2,014 points. The 2020 season marks the eighth time Truex has competed in the Playoffs. Truex has grabbed one checkered flag and 11 top-five finishes this season. Last year, Truex became just the fourth driver in series history to win the first two events of the Playoffs; joining Greg Biffle (2008), Tony Stewart (2011) and Matt Kenseth (2013). Truex has made 16 starts at Darlington posting one win, two top fives and eight top 10s. His average finish at the historic track is 11.125, fifth-best. He is also ranked in the top 10 of several key Loop Data categories at Darlington: Average Running Position of 11.138 (sixth-best), Driver Rating of 99.6 (sixth-best), 287 Fastest Laps Run (fifth-best) and 4,049 Laps in the Top 15 (71.7%, fifth-most).

Ryan Blaney (No. 12 Team Penske Ford) heads to Darlington ranked seventh in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings with 2,013 points. This is the fourth time Blaney has made the Playoffs. The driver from North Carolina, has put up one win and eight top fives this season. At Darlington, he has posted two top 15s in seven starts. His average finish at the 1.366-mile raceway is 19.857, 20th-best. Plus, he is ranked in the top 25 in key Loop Data categories at Darlington: Average Running Position of 20.654 (21st-best), Driver Rating of 72.5 (19th-best), 34 Fastest Laps Run (16th-best) and 523 Laps in the Top 15 (22.4%, 21st-most).

Alex Bowman (No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet) arrives in Darlington ranked eighth in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings with 2,009 points. The 2020 season marks the third time in his career he has made the postseason. This year, Bowman has collected one win and eight top 10s. At the ‘track too tough to tame’ he has made six starts posting one top-five finish. His average finish at Darlington is 19.0, 18th-best. In addition, he is ranked in the top 20 in several key Loop Data categories at Darlington: Average Running Position of 18.799 (18th-best), Driver Rating of 76.0 (16th-best), 107 Fastest Laps Run (10th-best), 766 Laps in the Top 15 (38.8%, 17th-most).

William Byron (No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet) clinched his spot in the 2020 Playoffs by winning the regular season finale at Daytona International Speedway last weekend and pulls into Darlington this weekend ranked ninth in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings with 2,007 points. This is the second time Byron has made the Playoffs. The youngster from North Carolina has put up one win and nine top 10s this season. At Darlington he has made four career starts posting one top-15 finish. His average finish of 25.750 is 25th-best. Byron is ranked in the top 20 in several key Loop Data categories at Darlington: Average Running Position of 15.176 (13th-best), Driver Rating of 78.7 (14th-best), 19 Fastest Laps Run (17th-best), 823 Laps in the Top 15 (66.6%, 16th-most).

Austin Dillon (No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet) heads to Darlington ranked 10th in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,005 points. This is Dillon’s fourth time competing in the postseason. The driver from North Carolina had to miss a race due to testing positive for COVID-19 this season but had already locked himself into the Playoffs with a win. With a Playoff waiver, Dillon now sets his sights on Darlington, a track he has made eight starts accumulating one top five and two top 10s. His average finish at the egg-shaped track is 13.250, 10th-best. On top of that he is ranked in the top 20 in several key Loop Data categories at Darlington: Average Running Position of 16.854 (15th-best), Driver Rating of 75.3 (17th-best), 18 Fastest Laps Run (18th-best), 1,046 Laps in the Top 15 (38.6%, 14th-most).

Cole Custer (No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford) rides into Darlington this weekend as just the third different Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate in the Playoff Era (2004-Present) to make the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs joining Denny Hamlin (2006) and Chase Elliott (2016). Custer is ranked 11th in the Playoff standings with 2,005 points. The Californian has one win and six top 10s this season. At Darlington, he has one top-25 finish in two starts. His average finish at the historic raceway is 26.500, 28th-best. His limited experience at the ‘track too tough to tame’ has him ranked in the top 25 of just two key Loop Data categories: Average Running Position of 22.242 (23rd-best) and Driver Rating of 59.8 (25th-best).

Aric Almirola (No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford) arrives in Darlington this weekend ranked 12th in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,005 points. The 2020 season marks the fourth time he has competed in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. The driver from Tampa, Florida has put up five top fives and 14 top 10s this season – the highest ranked driver entering the postseason without a win. Almirola has made 10 starts at Darlington posting one top-10 finish. His average finish at the raceway is 17.600, 15th-best. In addition, he is ranked in the top 25 in several key Loop Data categories at Darlington: Average Running Position of 18.404 (17th-best), Driver Rating of 72.7 (18th-best), 13 Fastest Laps Run (22nd-best), 915 Laps in the Top 15 (26.6%,15th-most).

Clint Bowyer (No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford) roles into Darlington ranked 13th in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings with 2,004 points. This is his ninth time competing in the Playoffs. The Kansas native has amassed two top fives and seven top 10s this season. Looking to Darlington, where Bowyer has posted two top 10s and a pole in 16 starts. His average finish at the 1.366-mile track is 21.313, 22nd-best. He is also ranked right around the top 15 in several key Loop Data categories at Darlington: Average Running Position of 17.845 (16th-best), Driver Rating of 77.4, (15th-best), 153 Fastest Laps Run (ninth-best) and 2,816 Laps in the Top 15 (49.8%, 11th-most).

Kyle Busch (No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota), the defending series champion, enters the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs ranked 14th in the standings with 2,003 points. This is Busch’s 13th appearance in the Cup Series postseason. In comparison to years past, 2020 was a bit rough for Busch and the No. 18 JGR team, it is the longest into a full season the two-time champ has gone without a win. Busch has posted 11 top fives and 13 top 10s this year. But Darlington could be the track that breaks his 26-race winless streak. He has made 17 starts at the famed raceway collecting one win, five top fives and 11 top 10s. His average finish at Darlington is 11.412, seventh-best. Much like Harvick and Hamlin, Busch ranks in the top five in several key Loop Data categories at Darlington: Average Running Position of 9.405 (third-best), Driver Rating of 102.9 (fourth-best), 320 Fastest Laps Run (second-best), 5,070 Laps in the Top 15 (84.2%, series-most).

Kurt Busch (No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet) heads to Darlington this weekend ranked 15th in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings with 2,001 points. The 2020 season marks the 14th-time he has competed in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. This season the Las Vegas native has gathered four top fives, 14 top 10s and a pole. At Darlington, Busch has made 25 starts collecting four top fives, 10 top 10s and two poles. His average finish at the egg-shaped track is 15.647, 12th-best. He is also ranked right around the top 10 in several key Loop Data categories at Darlington: Average Running Position of 13.177 (10th-best), Driver Rating of 88.4 (11th-best), 235 Fastest Laps Run (sixth-best), 4,361 Laps in the Top 15 (72.4%, fourth-most).

Matt DiBenedetto (No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford) clinched the final NASCAR Cup Series Playoff spot (16th) on points last weekend in a wild finish at Daytona International Speedway earning his first ever postseason career berth. The Californian heads to Darlington with 2,000 points. DiBenedetto has made seven series starts at Darlington Raceway accumulating two top 10s. His average finish at the historic raceway is 21.0 (21st-best). He also falls right in the top 25 of several key Loop Data categories at Darlington: Average Running Position of 22.461 (24th-best), Driver Rating of 60.7 (24th-best), 7 Fastest Laps Run (25th-best), 551 Laps in the Top 15 (23.6%) (20th-most).

"The way I look at it is, I was pumped that we made it in and wanted it bad for the whole team because we know that we could be a Playoff contender, not just making it and being there," said Matt DiBenedetto at Playoff Media Day. "I would say the most stressful part was making it in the Playoffs. Now I feel like we are the most put together as a team and most prepared and ready to go and execute to make some hay and pick some guys off and try to make it through and do a really good job. I would say it is less stressful now and more exciting that it is a clean slate where we are all grouped together in points and can show the strength of our team now."

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Xfinity Series heads to the "Track Too Tough To Tame"

The NASCAR Xfinity Series leads off the weekend at Darlington Raceway with a midday affair on Saturday with the Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 at 12:30 p.m. ET (NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). This weekend’s race marks the first time since 2004 that the Xfinity Series has raced twice in a season at Darlington Raceway.

After the stoppage in racing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, NASCAR realigned the NASCAR Xfinity Series race from Chicagoland Speedway to Darlington Raceway in May – the first week the sport returned to action. That made the regularly scheduled Labor Day weekend event the second Darlington race of the season for the series.

Chase Briscoe won the first event of the season at Darlington in the series’ return to racing for the first time after the two-month halt in action. The win was Briscoe’s second victory of the season after winning at Las Vegas. He then went on to win the second of the two Miami races in a double-header, at Pocono, on the Indianapolis Road Course and, most recently, in the second race of the Dover double-header weekend.

Briscoe and Denny Hamlin (five wins) are the only drivers in the field this weekend with wins at Darlington in the Xfinity Series.

Three different drivers have swept a season’s races for a total of four times at Darlington (1984 – Ron Bouchard, 1994 – Mark Martin, 2000 – Mark Martin, 2002 – Jeff Burton).

Martin is the all-time wins leader at Darlington with eight visits to Victory Lane. Denny Hamlin is second with five wins, while Jeff Burton and Harry Gant have four apiece.

Justin Allgaier and Jeremy Clements lead entered drivers with 10 starts apiece at the South Carolina track. Allgaier has three top-five and seven top-10 finishes, including a third-place result here earlier this season. Clements has one top 10 (eighth place in 2016) and finished 12th at Darlington in May.

Justin Haley will start on the pole for Saturday afternoon’s race, with Briscoe alongside him on the front row.

The pole winner (or first starting position) has won the race at Darlington 15 times – most recently by Denny Hamlin in 2017.

Darlington Raceway Clinch Scenarios: Four Races Remain

With four races left in the NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season, time is running short for the drivers not locked into the Playoffs to secure their spot going into the postseason.

Seven drivers have already clinched a spot in the 12-driver postseason field: Austin Cindric, Chase Briscoe, Noah Gragson, Justin Haley, Harrison Burton, Justin Allgaier and Brandon Jones.

Can Clinch Via Points

If there is a new winner, the following driver could clinch by being 166 points above the 2nd winless driver in the standings.

  • Ross Chastain can clinch a Playoff spot with 24 points at Darlington Raceway. He is the only driver who can clinch a Playoff berth without a win this weekend.

If there is a repeat winner, the following driver could clinch by being 166 points above the 3rd winless driver in the standings. They would also clinch if the new winner was Michael Annett and being 166 points above the 2nd winless in the standings.

  • Ross Chastain can clinch regardless of finish at Darlington Raceway.

Can Clinch Via Win

The following drivers would clinch on their win alone:

  • Ross Chastain
  • Michael Annett
  • Riley Herbst
  • Ryan Sieg

The following drivers could clinch with a win and clinching a Top 20 position:

  • Brandon Brown: Would clinch with 48 points
  • Jeremy Clements: Could only clinch with help
  • Myatt Snider: Could only clinch with help

NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff Outlook following Daytona:

Rank Driver Points Race Wins Stage Wins Playoff Pts Pts from Cutoff
1 Chase Briscoe 910 6 5 35 In On Wins
2 Austin Cindric 968 5 9 34
3 Noah Gragson 842 2 8 18
4 Justin Haley 757 2 3 13
5 Harrison Burton # 752 2 0 10
6 Brandon Jones 652 2 2 12
7 Justin Allgaier 750 1 8 13
8 Ross Chastain 860 0 1 1 420
9 Michael Annett 663 0 0 0 223
10 Riley Herbst # 582 0 0 0 142
11 Ryan Sieg 526 0 2 2 86
12 Brandon Brown 472 0 0 0 32
13 Jeremy Clements 440 0 0 0 -32
14 Myatt Snider # 414 0 0 0 -58
15 Josh Williams 386 0 0 0 -86
16 Jesse Little 384 0 0 0 -88

Expect the battle for the final spots left in Playoffs to stay close this weekend at Darlington because the drivers on the Playoff bubble share very similar average finishes: Ryan Sieg (18.4), Jeremy Clements (19.9), Josh Williams (20.0) Brandon Brown (21.0), Myatt Snider (35.0), Jesse Little (36.0).

Current field’s history at Darlington

Earlier this season, Chase Briscoe won the first race back for the Xfinity Series after the stoppage in racing action due to the pandemic. Kyle Busch, who is not entered this weekend, finished second, while Justin Allgaier, Austin Cindric and Noah Gragson rounded out the top five.

While it was Allgaier’s 10th visit to the "Track Too Tough To Tame," it was only the second start at the 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval for Briscoe and Gragson, while it was the third time Cindric had raced on the circuit. For Briscoe, Cindric and Gragson, it was their first top-five result at Darlington.

And while all of those drivers are locked into the Playoffs by virtue of wins this season, several drivers around the bubble will be fighting against their history at the track in order to try to secure a better position in the standings. The good news for some of them is that they recorded one of their better career Darlington finishes in the most recent outing at the track in May.

Brandon Brown, who currently occupies the 12th and final slot in the Playoff grid, has made four starts at the track, but only has a best finish of 13th with an average finish of 21.0. However, that best finish just happened to be earlier this year at Darlington, so he hopes to improve upon that to build a larger gap and move out of the bump spot that would eliminate him from the Playoffs should a driver outside the grid win.

Ryan Sieg, currently 11th on the grid, has seven starts at the track with an average finish of 18.4 and his best finish of seventh – his only top 10 at the track – came four months ago. Riley Herbst, who is in 10th place on the grid, made his track debut in May, finishing 18th.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Clements, who sits in 13th – one spot outside the Playoff grid – finished 12th in his last two outings to Darlington. His career best finish is eighth in 2016 and his average finish is 19.9.

Myatt Snider (14th on the grid) also made his track debut earlier this season, finishing 35th in May.

Throwback schemes taking to the track

In what has become an annual fan favorite tradition at Darlington Raceway, several teams will feature throwback paint schemes to honor the history of the sport.

JR Motorsports will run a pair of cars in tribute to Dale Earnhardt Jr. paint schemes as he heads into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Michael Annett’s No. 1 Chevrolet will feature an Oreo scheme reminiscent of the one Earnhardt drove to Victory Lane at Daytona in 2002. His teammate in the No. 7 Brandt Chevrolet, Justin Allgaier, will pay homage to Earnhardt’s 2003 July Daytona Dirty Mo Posse car – the first paint scheme that Earnhardt designed.

A third JR Motorsports car will honor the life of the late John Andretti, mimicking paint schemes from the 1995 and 1996 seasons.

And the late Mike Stefanik, also to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2021, will be honored on Brett Moffitt’s No. 02 Our Motorsports Chevrolet.

Another car owner, Tony Stewart, will be represented in the paint scheme on the No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford of Chase Briscoe. The scheme will look back to 2011, the year of Stewart’s final NASCAR Cup Series championship season.

Jimmie Johnson will be recognized by fellow native Californian Ryan Vargas on the No. 6 JD Motorsports Chevrolet, running a scheme that reflects back on the 2001 NASCAR Xfinity Series car of the retiring seven-time Cup champion.

Also, among the tributes, Anthony Alfredo’s No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet will pay tribute to Kevin Harvick’s 2006 NASCAR Xfinity Series championship scheme. In that year, Harvick won nine races en route to the second of five Xfinity Series championships RCR has captured.

Burton continues to dominate the Sunoco Rookie standings

One thing hasn’t changed over the past few weeks – Harrison Burton continues to dominate the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings, holding a 170-point lead over Riley Herbst.

Burton is the only rookie who is locked into the Playoffs by virtue of a win – he has two on the season (Auto Club, Miami). Herbst is in 10th place on the Playoff outlook, a solid 142 points ahead of the cutoff.

Of note, when the Playoffs begin, the drivers’ points in the Playoffs will be reset to 2000 points, with their Playoff points then added on. Which will bring the Sunoco Rookie standings much closer together.

Jesse Little is in third in the Sunoco Rookie standings and is looking for his first top five of the season. His season-best finish came at Pocono in 10th. At Dover, he finished 23rd in both races.

Rookies Points Awards
Harrison Burton 716 14
Riley Herbst 539 5
Jesse Little 357 1
Joe Graf Jr. 285 0
Myatt Snider 244 1
Kody Vanderwal 145 0

NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series

Guess who’s back?

The NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series returns to Darlington Raceway for the first time since 2011 as the schedule had to be realigned this year following the interruption in competition due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the original version of the 2020 schedule, the Gander Trucks should have been at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park this weekend. However, restrictions due to the pandemic make it impossible to race north of the border, and the race was realigned to Darlington Raceway to bring all three NASCAR national series to the "Lady in Black."

The Gander Trucks have raced six times before at Darlington Raceway. Once a year from 2001-2004, and then in 2010 and 2011. Bobby Hamilton (2001, 2003) and Kasey Kahne (2004, 2011) are the only multi-time winners at Darlington in a truck.

Ted Musgrave (2002) and Todd Bodine (2010) are the only other two individuals to have won a Gander Trucks race at Darlington.

There are four drivers entered this weekend with a previous start in the Gander Trucks at Darlington. Matt Crafton leads the group with six starts – competing in all of the series’ races at Darlington – one top five (fourth place in 2011), and four top 10s.

His teammate ThorSport Racing teammate Johnny Sauter has a pair of starts there, both resulting in top 10s. He was fourth in 2010 and ninth in 2011.

Jennifer Jo Cobb finished 14th in 2010 and Norm Benning raced in 2010 (18th) and 2011 (26th).

Brett Moffitt will start on the pole in the Gander Trucks’ return to the 1.366-mile circuit in South Carolina, while Sheldon Creed will be alongside him on the front row. Austin Hill, Zane Smith and Ben Rhodes round out the top-five starting positions.

In the six previous races with the series at Darlington, the pole winner has not won the race.

Darlington Raceway Clinch Scenarios: A historic wild card

One of the most difficult things for drivers and teams to navigate in NASCAR is the unknown, and this weekend majority of the field has never raced at the ‘Track too Tough to Tame’ Darlington Raceway making it an ultimate wild card for the drivers trying to make the Playoffs.

Five drivers have already clinched a spot in the 10-driver NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series postseason field: Austin Hill, Zane Smith, Sheldon Creed, Matt Crafton and Grant Enfinger.

Can Clinch Via Points

If there is a new winner, the following drivers could clinch by being 56 points above the 4th winless driver in the standings.

  • Brett Moffitt can clinch a spot in the Playoffs with 7 points at Darlington.
  • Ben Rhodes can clinch a spot in the Playoffs with 41 points at Darlington.
  • Christian Eckes can clinch a spot in the Playoffs with 52 points at Darlington.

If there is a repeat winner, the following drivers could clinch by being 56 points above the 5th winless driver in the standings. They would also clinch if there was a new winner among Brett Moffitt, Ben Rhodes, Christian Eckes, or Tyler Ankrum and being 56 points above the 4th winless in the standings.

  • Brett Moffitt can clinch a spot in the Playoffs with 3 points at Darlington.
  • Ben Rhodes can clinch a spot in the Playoffs with 37 points at Darlington.
  • Christian Eckes can clinch a spot in the Playoffs with 48 points at Darlington.
  • Tyler Ankrum can clinch only a spot in the Playoffs with help.

Can clinch via win

The following drivers would clinch on their win alone:

  • Brett Moffitt
  • Ben Rhodes
  • Christian Eckes
  • Tyler Ankrum
  • Todd Gilliland
  • Derek Kraus
  • Tanner Gray
  • Raphael Lessard
  • Stewart Friesen
  • Johnny Sauter
  • Ty Majeski

The following drivers could clinch with a win and clinching a top 20 position:

  • Austin Wayne Self: Could only clinch with help
  • Tate Fogleman: Could only clinch with help
  • Spencer Boyd: Could only clinch with help
  • Jordan Anderson: Could only clinch with help

Additionally, Austin Hill could clinch the Regular Season Championship by being 61 points above the second-place driver in the standings, which would require help.

NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Playoff Outlook following Daytona:

Rank Driver Points Race Wins Stage Wins Playoff Pts Pts From Cutoff
1 Sheldon Creed 475 3 4 19 In On Wins
2 Zane Smith # 521 2 4 14
3 Grant Enfinger 422 2 1 11
4 Austin Hill 549 1 2 7
5 Matt Crafton 449 1 0 5
6 Brett Moffitt 516 0 4 4 118
7 Ben Rhodes 483 0 0 0 85
8 Christian Eckes # 471 0 0 0 73
9 Tyler Ankrum 413 0 0 0 15
10 Todd Gilliland 411 0 2 2 13
11 Derek Kraus # 398 0 0 0 -13
12 Tanner Gray # 342 0 0 0 -69
13 Raphael Lessard # 338 0 0 0 -73
14 Stewart Friesen 314 0 0 0 -97
15 Johnny Sauter 312 0 1 1 -99

Throwback in the truck

Trevor Bayne, Greg Biffle and David Ragan are all set to return to the track for the first time this season as they suit up for this weekend’s South Carolina Education Lottery 200 on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Bayne returns for the first time since last competing at Texas in the NASCAR Cup Series in the fall of 2018. He’ll be racing in the No. 40 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet.

The 2011 Daytona 500 champion will be making his debut in the Gander Trucks, but he does have some experience at Darlington. He’s run a trio of Cup Series races and has run three Xfinity Series races there with a best finish of ninth in 2014.

Biffle returned to the Gander Trucks in 2019 for a single start for Kyle Busch Motorsports, winning the Triple Truck Challenge bonus for the Toyota team at Texas Motor Speedway in the summer. This time he’ll be running the No. 24 Chevrolet for GMS Racing.

Although he doesn’t have any Gander Trucks experience at Darlington, Biffle does know his way around the track. In 16 Cup Series starts at the "Track Too Tough To Tame," he has a pair of wins (2005, 2006) and three top-five and six top-10 results. He also has a win (2004) in 11 NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Darlington.

And David Ragan will be in the No. 17 DGR-Crosley Ford this weekend at Darlington. He has 29 Gander Trucks starts from 2004-2006, none at Darlington. In 13 NASCAR Cup Series starts at Darlington, Ragan posted a top five in 2008 with a fifth-place finish. And he has a trio of Xfinity Series starts with a best finish of 13th in 2008.

Sunoco Rookies in the Playoff picture

A pair of rookies – Zane Smith, who is locked in with a pair of wins, and Christian Eckes, sitting in eighth in the Playoff grid standings, are poised to advance to the Playoffs when the regular season ends in two races.

Smith continues to hold the top spot in the Gander Trucks Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings with a 50-point lead over Eckes.

But the outside of the Playoff bubble holds several Sunoco Rookies looking to vault into the Playoffs in their debut year in the Gander Trucks.

Derek Kraus (third in the Sunoco rookie standings) and Tanner Gray (fourth in the rookie standings) are just outside the Playoff bubble, in 11th and 12th, respectively. Kraus sits just 13 points behind Todd Gilliland in the final spot of 10th while Gray is 68 points out of the grid.

And Raphael Lessard, fifth in the rookie standings, is in 13th on the grid.

— NASCAR —