NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Cook Out Southern 500
The Place: Darlington Raceway
The Date: Sunday, September 4
The Time: 6 p.m. ET
The Purse: $7,823,733
TV: USA, 5 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR (Channel 90)
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 Help A Hero 200
The Place: Darlington Raceway
The Date: Saturday, September 3
The Time: 3 p.m. ET
The Purse: $1,208,129
TV: USA, 2:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR (Channel 90)
Distance: 200.8 miles (147 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 45), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 147)
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Next Race: Kansas Lottery 200
The Place: Kansas Speedway
The Date: Friday, September 9
The Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
The Purse: $648,530
TV: FS1, 7 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR (Channel 90)
Distance: 201 miles (134 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 30), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 60), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 134)
NASCAR Cup Series
NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs get underway at ‘The Track Too Tough To Tame‘
The 2022 season marks the third year the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs has opened at Darlington Raceway (2020-2022) and the competitors vying for this season‘s title are ready for the challenge the Cook Out Southern 500 on September 4 (6 p.m. ET on USA Network, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) is going to bring.
2022 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs ScheduleTracksDatesDarlington RacewaySunday, September 4, 2022Kansas SpeedwaySunday, September 11, 2022Bristol Motor SpeedwaySaturday, September 17, 2022Texas Motor SpeedwaySunday, September 25, 2022Talladega SuperspeedwaySunday, October 2, 2022Charlotte ROVALSunday, October 9, 2022Las Vegas Motor SpeedwaySunday, October 16, 2022Homestead-Miami SpeedwaySunday, October 23, 2022Martinsville SpeedwaySunday, October 30, 2022Phoenix RacewaySunday, November 6, 2022
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 event 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 former Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson.
The winner of the opening race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs has gone on to win the title that same season 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), NASCAR Hall of Famer 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 — a feat Kyle Larson matched last season. In 2012, Brad Keselowski won the Playoff race at Chicagoland Speedway and went on to win the title. And in 2017, Martin Truex Jr. won the Playoff race at Chicago to open the Playoffs and went on to win the championship that same season.
First Race Of The Playoffs – Race WinnersTrackPlayoff Race WinnersDateNew HampshireKurt BuschSunday, September 19, 2004New HampshireRyan NewmanSunday, September 18, 2005New HampshireKevin HarvickSunday, September 17, 2006New HampshireClint BowyerSunday, September 16, 2007New HampshireGreg BiffleSunday, September 14, 2008New HampshireMark MartinSunday, September 20, 2009New HampshireClint BowyerSunday, September 19, 2010ChicagoTony StewartMonday, September 19, 2011ChicagoBrad KeselowskiSunday, September 16, 2012ChicagoMatt KensethSunday, September 15, 2013ChicagoBrad KeselowskiSunday, September 14, 2014ChicagoDenny HamlinSunday, September 20, 2015ChicagoMartin Truex JrSunday, September 18, 2016ChicagoMartin Truex JrSunday, September 17, 2017Las VegasBrad KeselowskiSunday, September 16, 2018Las VegasMartin Truex JrSunday, September 15, 2019DarlingtonKevin HarvickSunday, September 6, 2020DarlingtonDenny HamlinSunday, September 5, 2021
The worst finish in the opening race of the Playoffs by a driver that went on to win the NASCAR Cup Series title was Jimmie Johnson‘s 39th-place finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to open 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 in 2019. And the worst finish in the opening race of the Playoffs at Darlington Raceway by a driver that went on to win the championship was Chase Elliott‘s 20th-place finish in 2020. Last season, Kyle Larson finished second at Darlington Raceway to open the Playoffs and went on to win the title.
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 (last eight seasons), entering the Playoffs as the No. 1 seed has been the most successful seeding, producing four championships among three drivers — Kyle Busch (2015, 2019), Martin Truex Jr. (2017) and Kyle Larson (2021). Hendrick Motorsport‘s driver Chase Elliott enters this season‘s Playoffs as the No. 1 seed with 40 Playoff points at his side.
The deepest seed that an eventual champion has started the Playoffs was seventh, by Kevin Harvick in 2014 and Joey Logano in 2018.
Historically iconic Darlington Raceway is a contest unto itself for the competitors
Darlington Raceway is the perfect stage for 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs opener, the Cook Out Southern 500 (Sunday, Sept. 4 at 6 p.m. ET on USA, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The historic 1.366-mile, egg-shaped, paved oval has hosted 122 NASCAR Cup Series races dating back to 1950, and with its rich tradition of history it has become one of the most iconic tracks on the schedule.
Originally, the raceway was built as a 1.25-mile paved superspeedway in 1949-1950 and hosted the first 500-mile race in NASCAR history and the first on asphalt on September 4, 1950. A total of 75 cars competed in the inaugural event and Curtis Turner won the pole at 82.034 mph, and the race was won by Johnny Mantz (Plymouth, 75.250 mph). The race took 6 hours, 38 minutes, and 40 seconds to complete. This weekend‘s race will be exactly 72 years since the inaugural event held in 1950.
Since then, Darlington Raceway has undergone some changes through the years. In 1953, the track was re-measured to 1.375-miles. Then in 1970, the track was re-configured to 1.366-miles following the spring race of that season. The track was repaved in 1995 and then again prior to the 2008 season. Over the years the historic facility has become known amongst its competitors as ‘the track too tough to tame‘.
In total, the 122 NASCAR Cup Series races has produced 52 different pole winners and 52 different race winners. NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson leads the series in poles at Darlington with 12 (1967, ‘70, ‘72, ‘73 sweep, ‘75 sweep, ‘76 sweep, ‘77, ‘78 and ‘82). Pearson‘s 12 Darlington poles are tied with NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough (12 poles at Daytona) for the second-most poles all-time at a single track in the NASCAR Cup Series. Pearson also holds the NASCAR Cup Series record for most poles at a single track with 14 poles at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
A total of five of the 52 NASCAR Cup Series pole winners at Darlington Raceway are active this weekend, led by Kevin Harvick (2014, 2017) with two poles.
Active Darlington Pole WinnersPolesSeasonsKevin Harvick22017, 2014Joey Logano12022William Byron12019Denny Hamlin12018Brad Keselowski12015
NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson also leads the NASCAR Cup Series in victories at Darlington Raceway with 10 wins (1968, ‘70, ‘72, ‘73, ‘74, ‘76 sweep, ‘77, ‘79, 80); followed by fellow Hall of Famers Dale Earnhardt with nine wins and Jeff Gordon with seven. Joe Gibbs Racing‘s Denny Hamlin leads all active NASCAR Cup Series drivers in victories at Darlington Raceway with four triumphs (2010, 2017, 2020, 2022). Of the 52 NASCAR Cup Series Darlington Raceway race winners, 28 have multiple wins and seven are active this weekend.
Active Darlington Race WinnersWinsSeasonsDenny Hamlin42021-2, 2020-2, 2017, 2010Kevin Harvick32020-3, 2020-1, 2014Martin Truex Jr22021, 2016Joey Logano12021Erik Jones12019Brad Keselowski12018Kyle Busch12008
This weekend‘s Cook Out Southern 500 will be 367 laps (501.3 miles) and will be broken up into three stages. The first stage will be 115 laps, the second stage will be 115 laps and the final stage will be 137 laps.
A total of 20 different starting positions on the grid at Darlington Raceway have resulted in victories in the NASCAR Cup Series. The first starting position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners (21) than any other starting position at Darlington Raceway in the NASCAR Cup Series. The outside front row (second-place) has produced the second-most wins (18). The front row starting positions combined have produced 31.9% of the race winners at Darlington Raceway with 39 wins coming from the two spots. A total of 12 different drivers have won from the pole at Darlington Raceway in the NASCAR Cup Series. NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson leads the NASCAR Cup Series in wins from the pole at Darlington Raceway with four wins (1971, 1972, 1976 sweep). Kevin Harvick (2014) and Joey Logano (2022) are the only active drivers to win from the pole at Darlington Raceway. The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Darlington is 43rd by Johnny Mantz in 1950 — the inaugural NASCAR Cup Series event held at the historic raceway.
Quick Rundown: NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs
The NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs format is competed over the final 10 races and includes 16 drivers and four rounds — the Round of 16, the Round of 12, the Round of 8 and the Championship 4.
A victory in the first 26 races all but guarantees a berth in the 10-race Playoffs.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 (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 Round of 8; and race No. 36 will be the Championship 4 Round.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 Race with a chance at the title, with the highest finisher among those four capturing the prestigious NASCAR Cup Series championship.
Eligibility For The NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs
The top 15 drivers with the most wins over the first 26 races will earn a spot in the Playoffs — provided they have finished in the top 30 in points and attempted to qualify for every race (except in rare instances).The 16th Playoff position will go to the points leader after race No. 26 if he/she does not have a victory. In the event that there are 16 or more different winners over 26 races, the only winless driver who can earn a Playoff spot would be the points leader after 26 races.If there are fewer than 16 different winners in the first 26 races, the remaining Playoff positions will go to those winless drivers highest in points. If there are 16 or more winners in the first 26 races, the ties will first be broken by number of wins, followed by points.Prior to the start of the Playoffs, all Playoff drivers will have their points adjusted to 2,000, with all Playoff points added to their total. Those Playoff points will stay with the driver as long as he/she remains in the Playoffs (except for the Championship 4 Round race).
The NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs are an elimination-style format that is broken up into four rounds. After the third Playoff race, there will be 12 drivers. After the sixth Playoff race, the field will drop to eight drivers, and following the ninth Playoff race, only four drivers will remain in championship contention.
Round of 16: The first round (races 27-29 at Darlington, Kansas, Bristol) is the Round of 16. If a Playoff driver wins a race in this round, the driver automatically advances to the next round (Round of 12). The remaining available positions 1-12 that have not been filled based upon wins will be based on points. Each driver will then have their points reset to 3,000, with any awarded Playoff points added.Round of 12: The second round (races 30-32 at Texas, Talladega, Charlotte RC) is the Round of 12. Likewise, if a driver in the top 12 in points wins a race in this round, the driver automatically advances to the next round (Round of 8). The remaining available positions 1-8 that have not been filled based upon wins will be based on points. Each driver will then have their points reset to 4,000, with any awarded Playoff points added.Round of 8: The third round (races 33-35 at Las Vegas, Homestead, Martinsville) is the Round of 8. If a driver in the top eight in points wins a race in this round, the driver automatically advances to the next round (Championship 4). The remaining available positions 1-4 that have not been filled based upon wins will be based on points. Each will then have their points reset to 5,000.Additionally, drivers who are eliminated in the Round of 16, Round of 12 and Round of 8 will have their points readjusted. Each eliminated driver will return to the Playoff-start base of 2,000 with any awarded Playoff points and any accumulated points starting with race No. 27 added. This will allow all drivers not in contention for the title to continue to race for the best possible season-long standing, with final positions fifth-through-16th still up for grabs.
The 36th and final race of the season will be the Championship Race at Phoenix Raceway, which will feature the Championship 4 Round. Simply stated, the highest finisher in that race among the remaining four eligible drivers will win the NASCAR Cup Series title.Playoff points for stage wins will not apply in the season finale, so the official finishing position alone will decide the champion.Note: All rules outlined above also apply to the owner championship structure.
Scouting the Playoff field at Darlington
Darlington Raceway is set to kick off the 19th running of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs (2004-2022) in this Sunday‘s Cook Out Southern 500 at 6 p.m. ET on USA, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Since the inception of the postseason in 2004, 46 different drivers have qualified for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs; including this season‘s 16-driver field. Four drivers this season are making their Playoff career debuts in the NASCAR Cup Series — Austin Cindric, Chase Briscoe, Ross Chastain and Daniel Suárez. Veterans Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick are making their NASCAR Cup Series record 16th Playoff appearance — the most all-time.
In total 10 different drivers have won the championship since the inception of the Playoffs in 2004. This season, five former NASCAR Cup Series champions make up the 16-driver Playoff field (active champions in the Playoffs are bolded in the chart below); Joe Gibbs Racing‘s Kyle Busch is the only active competitor with multiple NASCAR Cup Series championships (2015, 2019).
NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Era Champions (2004-2021)RankTitlesDrivers (10)Years17Jimmie Johnson2016, ‘13, ‘10, ‘09, ‘08, ‘07, ‘0622Kyle Busch2019, ’15Tony Stewart2011, ‘0541Kyle Larson2021Chase Elliott2020Joey Logano2018Martin Truex Jr.2017Kevin Harvick2014Brad Keselowski201210Kurt Busch2004
Six different organizations are represented in this season‘s NASCAR Cup Series Driver Playoffs — Hendrick Motorsports, Trackhouse Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Penske.
All three NASCAR Cup Series official engine manufacturers have qualified for the Playoffs as well, led by Chevrolet with eight entries into the postseason, followed by Ford with five and Toyota with three.
Looking ahead to Darlington Raceway, six former winners are entered in the race this weekend; led by Denny Hamlin (2022 2020, 2017, 2010) with four wins. Kevin Harvick is the only other Playoff driver this season with multiple wins at Darlington Raceway with three (2020-3, 2020-1, 2014).
Driver listed below are by seeding heading into Darlington:
Chase Elliott (No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet) heads to Darlington Raceway as the Regular Season Champion and the No. 1 seed in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,040 points — up +33 points on the Round of 12 cutoff — in his seventh consecutive postseason appearance (2022, ’21 ’20, ’19, ’18, ’17, ’16). Elliott has made 11 series starts at Darlington Raceway, amassing three top fives and five top 10s. His average finish at the 1.366-mile track is 17.3.
Joey Logano (No. 22 Team Penske Ford) heads to Darlington Raceway as the No. 2 seed in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,025 points — up +18 points on the Round of 12 cutoff — in his ninth postseason appearance (2022, ’21 ’20, ’19, ’18, ’16, ’15, ’14, ’13). Logano returns to the ‘Lady In Black‘ as the most recent winner, taking home the trophy earlier this season from the pole position. Logano has made 17 series career starts at Darlington grabbing a pole, one win (2022), five top fives and nine top 10s. His average finish at Darlington is 13.5.
Ross Chastain (No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet) rolls into Darlington Raceway as the No. 3 seed in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,020 points — up +13 points on the Round of 12 cutoff — in his first career postseason appearance. Looking to Darlington, Chastain has made six series starts at the egg-shaped track accumulating one top-five and one top-10 finish. His average finish at Darlington is 22.1
Kyle Larson (No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet), last season‘s NASCAR Cup Series champion, heads to Darlington Raceway as the No. 4 seed in the Playoffs with 2,019 points — up +12 points on the Round of 12 cutoff — in his sixth postseason appearance (2022, ’21, ’19, ’18, ’17, ’16). Larson has made nine series starts at Darlington, posting five top fives and seven top 10s. His average finish at 1.366-mile facility is 8.8 — second-best among Playoff contenders.
William Byron (No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet) heads to Darlington Raceway as the No. 5 seed in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,014 points — up seven points on the Round of 12 cutoff — in his fourth consecutive appearance in the postseason (2022, ’21 ’20, ’19). Byron has made eight series starts at Darlington amassing two top fives and two top 10s. His average finish at the 1.366-mile track is 19.8.
Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) heads to Darlington Raceway as the defending winner of this Playoff race last season and the No. 6 seed in this season‘s Playoffs with 2,013 points — up six points on the Round of 12 cutoff — in his record setting 16th postseason appearance (2022, ’21, ’20, ’19, ’18, ’17, ’16, ’15, ’14, ’12, ’11, ’10, ’09, ’08, ’07, ’06). Hamlin has made 20 series starts at Darlington Raceway, putting up one pole, four wins (series-most among active drivers: 2010, 2017, 2020, 2021), 11 top fives and 15 top 10s. His average finish at Darlington is 7.7 — best among the Playoff contenders.
Ryan Blaney (No. 12 Team Penske Ford) heads to Darlington Raceway as the No. 7 seed NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,013 points — up six points on the Round of 12 cutoff — in his sixth postseason appearance (2022, ’21 ’20, ’19, ’18, ’17). Blaney is the only Playoff contender without a win this season and earned his spot on points at Daytona last weekend. Blaney has made 11 series starts at Darlington, posting one top-10 finish (eighth). His average finish at the South Carolina track is 19.0.
Tyler Reddick (No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet) arrives at Darlington Raceway as the No. 8 seed in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,012 points — up five points on the Round of 12 cutoff — in his second career appearance in the postseason (2022, ‘21). Reddick has made six series starts at Darlington Raceway posting one top-five and two top-10 finishes. His average finish at Darlington is 12.5.
Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford) starts off the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs as the No. 9 seed with 2,012 points — up five points on the Round of 12 cutoff — in his record setting 16th career postseason appearance (2022 ’21, ’20, ’19, ’18, ’17, ’16, ’15, ’14, ’13, ’12, ’11, ’10, ’08, ’07, ’06). Harvick has made 29 series starts at ‘the track too tough to tame‘ grabbing three wins (2014, 2020-1, 2020-3), 13 top fives and 18 top 10s. His average finish at Darlington is 12.1.
Christopher Bell (No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) heads to Darlington Raceway as the No. 10 seed in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,011 points — up four points on the Round of 12 cutoff — in his second postseason appearance (2022, ‘21). Bell has made six series starts at Darlington Raceway, collecting one top-10 finish (sixth). His average finish at Darlington is 18.1.
Kyle Busch (No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) arrives at Darlington Raceway as the No. 11 seed in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,010 points — up three points on the Round of 12 cutoff — in his 15th postseason appearance (2022, ’21 ’20, ’19, ’18, ’17, ’16, ’15, ’14, ’13, ’11, ’10, ’08, ’07, ’06). Busch has made 21 series starts at Darlington posting one win (2008) six top fives and 13 top 10s. His average finish at the 1.366-mile track is 12.9.
Chase Briscoe (No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford) rolls into Darlington Raceway as the No. 12 seed in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,009 points — up just two points on the Round of 12 cutoff in the final transfer spot on points — in his first appearance in the postseason. Briscoe has made three series starts at Darlington posting a best finish of 11th in May of 2021. His average finish at Darlington is 16.6.
Daniel Suárez (No. 99 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet) land at Darlington Raceway as the No. 13 seed in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,007 points — two points back from Chase Briscoe in the 12th and final transfer spot on points to the Round of 12 — in his first appearance in the NASCAR Cup Series postseason. Suárez is the first Mexican-born driver to earn a spot in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs (all-time). Suárez has made nine series starts at Darlington putting up one top-10 finish (10th earlier this season). His average finish at the historic track is 22.3
Austin Cindric (No. 2 Team Penske Ford) skips into Darlington Raceway as the No. 14 seed in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,006 points — three points behind the Round of 12 cutoff — in his first appearance in the postseason. Cindric is the fourth different Sunoco rookie to earn a spot in the Playoffs; joining Denny Hamlin (2006), Chase Elliott (2016) and Christopher Bell (2020). Cindric made his series track debut at Darlington earlier this season; he started 19th and finished 18th.
Alex Bowman (No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet) will start the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs as the No. 15 seed with 2,006 points – three points behind the Round of 12 cutoff — in his fifth-straight appearance in the postseason (2022, ’21 ’20, ’19, ’18). Bowman has made 10 series starts at Darlington Raceway putting up one top five and two top 10s. His average finish at the egg-shaped track is 19.2.
Austin Dillon (No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet) is climbing off of Cloud-9 this week after winning his way into the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs by taking the checkered flag in the regular season finale at Daytona. Now the North Carolina native heads to Darlington Raceway as the No. 16 seed with 2,005 points — back four points from the Round of 12 cutoff — in his fifth postseason appearance (2022, ’20, ’18, ’17, ’16). Dillon has made 12 series starts at Darlington posting two top fives and five top 10s. His average finish at Darlington is an 11.9.
NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Standings Outlook Following Race No. 26RankDriverPointsRace WinsStage WinsPlayoff PtsPts From Cutoff1Chase Elliott2,0404540332Joey Logano2,0252525183Ross Chastain2,0202520134Kyle Larson2,0192319125William Byron2,014231476Denny Hamlin2,013231367Ryan Blaney2,013051368Tyler Reddick2,012221259Kevin Harvick2,0122012510Christopher Bell2,0111211411Kyle Busch2,0101210312Chase Briscoe2,009149213Daniel Suarez2,007127-214Austin Cindric #2,006116-315Alex Bowman2,006116-316Austin Dillon2,005105-4
NASCAR Cup Series has produced some great competition this season
The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series regular season (first 26 races) has been deemed one of the best and the numbers certainly match the eye test. The first 26 races were phenomenal from a statistical standpoint — record-breaking, even.
Series-Most Race Winners (16) Through 26 Races: The 2022 season is tied with the 2003 season for the series-most NASCAR Cup Series winners through 26 races (1949-2022) with 16 different winners each.
Most Average Leaders Since 2011; Up 9.7% Year-Over-Year: A total of 38 different drivers have led laps in the NASCAR Cup Series through the first 26 races of the season with an average of 10.04 leaders per race; up from last season‘s 9.2 (+9.7%) — The 2022 season has produced the most average leaders per race since 2011 (12.77) over a decade ago.
Most Green Flag Passes For The Lead Through A Regular Season (26 Races): The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season has produced the series-most (1,162) green flag passes for the lead (GFPL) through the first 26 races of a season since the Loop Data statistic was initially tabulated in 2007 (the last 16 seasons).
NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.
The NASCAR Foundation‘s Speedy Bear Brigade Powered by Kaulig Giving Expands Across the United States and Mexico – NASCAR-themed teddy bears named ‘Speedy Bear‘ are being delivered to children in hospitals across the United States and Mexico as The NASCAR Foundation and Kaulig Giving join together for the sixth annual “Speedy Bear Brigade”. This year‘s program expands into Mexico bringing the cumulative total to more than 8,000 Speedy Bears delivered over six years to help comfort children during their hospital stays.
The NASCAR Foundation‘s Speedy Bear Brigade began delivering Speedy Bears to children earlier this week with stops in Monterrey, Mexico and Charlotte, North Carolina. NASCAR volunteers assisted with the deliveries, including representatives from the NASCAR Mexico Series who joined efforts for the first time.
“We are thrilled that our Speedy Bear Brigade continues to grow and impact more children each year,” said Nichole Krieger, The NASCAR Foundation executive director. “Support from donors like Kaulig Giving, the NASCAR Mexico Series and all of our wonderful NASCAR fans are so important in making this program a success as we help deliver cheer and positivity to children in hospitals everywhere.”
This year‘s efforts mark the biggest to date with nearly 70 hospitals participating in race markets across the United States and Mexico. The initiative culminates on National Teddy Bear Day on Friday, September 9, with events in Akron, Ohio, home to Kaulig Giving headquarters and during NASCAR‘s Kansas Speedway race weekend.
NASCAR Cup Series Featured Matchups: Cook Out Southern 500 — Below is a close look at the featured matchups fans can bet on heading into this weekend‘s event.
Austin Dillon vs. Austin Cindric – Austin Dillon‘s magical win at Daytona catapulted himself into the Playoffs in dramatic fashion. With both Richard Childress Racing cars in the Playoffs, it will be interesting to see what kind of noise they can make. Team Penske has all three cars in the Playoffs, but Daytona 500 winner Austin Cindric is the only rookie in the field. In this battle of Daytona winners, both Austin‘s will try to tame the “Lady in Black”. Dillon holds the lead in driver rating with a 73 to 66 advantage, but at Darlington, anything can happen as drivers attempt to manage tire wear.
Chase Elliott vs. Denny Hamlin – Two of the championship favorites finally begin their quest to win it all this week at Darlington. While Denny has two wins in his last seven races at Darlington, Chase only has two top fives and holds a 92.3 driver rating compared to Denny‘s 105.1. Although historically Hamlin has fared better at Darlington, Elliott bested him earlier this year, finishing fifth while Hamlin finished 21st. Both Denny and Chase have tons of experience at Darlington and will look to use that knowledge to start their championship run off on the right foot.
Kyle Larson vs. Kyle Busch – It‘s been a rough summer for Kyle Busch, but amid his contract controversy, he currently sits 11th in the Playoff standings. If the #18 team finds its stride, there is no doubt that Busch can win his third championship. He‘s looking for his first win in his last seven races at Darlington, as is his counterpart Kyle Larson, who had three straight runner-up finishes at Darlington prior to the spring race. Larson will start fourth in the standings when the green flag waves on Sunday, as he looks to defend his 2021 championship. It should be a great battle between these two on Sunday when the 2022 Playoffs get underway.
Kevin Harvick vs. Tyler Reddick – It‘s been an up-and-down year for both Kevin Harvick and Tyler Reddick, but both have had a blistering hot summer. Harvick won back-to-back races at Michigan and Richmond, silencing the doubters who didn‘t think he would find Victory Lane this year. Tyler Reddick won at both Indianapolis and Road America this year and has cemented himself as a serious Playoff contender. These two are neck-and-neck in the Playoff standings, sitting in eighth (Reddick) and ninth (Harvick) with 12 Playoff points. Harvick returns to one of his favorite tracks, where he owns two wins and six top fives in his last seven races at Darlington. Reddick hasn‘t had as much fortune at Darlington, with only one top five in six races. Earlier this year, however, Reddick finished as the runner-up to Joey Logano. At a track like Darlington where experience is crucial, Reddick showed that he‘s learning what it takes to tame the “Lady in Black”.
Rising Country Music Sensation Josiah Siska to Sing the National Anthem at Darlington – Darlington Raceway announces rising country music entertainer Josiah Siska to sing the National Anthem in advance of the first race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, the 73rd running of the Cook Out Southern 500 on Sunday, Sept. 4.
“We are proud to welcome one of the rising stars in country music, Josiah Siska, to share the National Anthem prior to the crown jewel Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway,” said Kerry Tharp, Darlington Raceway President. “Before the green flag waves to start the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, we look forward to our loyal race fans uniting to honor our nation with Josiah.”
“I am thrilled to get to sing the national anthem for NASCAR‘s playoff race at the Cook Out Southern 500 on Labor Day weekend in Darlington,” said Siska. “It‘s gonna be incredible. I‘ve never been before and I‘m so excited that I‘ll get to see the race! I love America, I love our freedom, and I can‘t wait to sing our country‘s national anthem for everybody on race day.”
NASCAR Xfinity Series
Onto Darlington Raceway after a wild Daytona weekend
Daytona International Speedway has historically been known as a place of surprises and this past weekend‘s Wawa 250 Powered by Coca-Cola was no exception. As if a rain delay wasn‘t enough, Friday night‘s Xfinity Series race went into not double, but triple overtime and sent a different winner into Victory Lane — Jeremy Clements.
Clements took the win under caution over Timmy Hill, AJ Allmendinger, Brandon Brown and Sage Karam who rounded out the top five. This win marked the second of Clements‘ NASCAR Xfinity Series career. His first was at Road America in 2017 after working his way up from the 24th position.
With some pep in his step, the South Carolina native, Clements, will head to his home track – Darlington Raceway – in hopes of once again putting on a show. The No. 51 Jeremy Clements Racing Chevrolet driver has been making his way to Darlington in the Xfinity Series for 12 years. In his 14 starts, he has posted three top 10s and two of those top 10s were in the 2021 season.
The Xfinity Series was at Darlington Raceway earlier this year for the Mahindra Roxor 200. JR Motorsports‘ Justin Allgaier won the event and Jeremy Clements finished in the 29th position.
Show me the stats: Darlington edition
After a rain-delayed, triple overtime race this past weekend in Daytona, the NASCAR Xfinity Series sets its eyes on Darlington Raceway for the Sports Clips Haircuts VFW Help a Hero 200 on Saturday, September 3 at 3 p.m. on USA Network, the NBC Sports App, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR radio.
This will be the second trip to Darlington, South Carolina this season. The first race in May saw JR Motorsports‘ Justin Allgaier take the win over his JRM teammate Noah Gragson in runner-up by a margin of victory of .259 seconds. If Allgaier wins again this Saturday, he‘ll become the ninth different driver to post back-to-back wins at the track, following Ron Bouchard (1984 sweep), Darrell Waltrip (1985, 1986), Dale Earnhardt (1986, 1987), Harry Grant (1989, 1990), Dale Jarett (1990, 1991), Mark Martin (1993, 1994 sweep, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2000 sweep), Jeff Burton (2001, 2002 sweep) and Denny Hamlin (2006, 2007).
Heading into this weekend, this will be the 65th Xfinity Series race at ‘the track too tough to tame.” The previous 64 races have produced 35 different race winners and 30 different pole winners. NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin sits as the track‘s winningest driver with eight trips to Victory Lane. He also leads with most poles (eight), top fives (14), top 10s (18) and laps led (972).
The track has been a place of “firsts” for a few drivers. Justin Ashburn (2003), Denny Hamlin (2004) and John Jackson (2011) got their first Xfinity Series starts at The Lady in Black while Kyle Busch (2004) and Ross Chastain (2018) each won their first poles here. There is yet to be a driver to post their first career Xfinity Series win at Darlington Raceway.
The on-track action will begin with practice on Saturday, September 3 at 10:05 a.m. ET followed by qualifying at 10:35 a.m. ET. Both practice and qualifying can be streamed on the NBC Sports App.
Xfinity Playoff picture shapes up with three races to go
Daytona International Speedway has always been known as a place where everyone has a chance to win and that theory proved to be true last Friday when Jeremy Clements took the checkered flag. Although Clements posted the win, he will not be making an appearance in the 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs due to a L2-level penalty being issued to the No. 51 team Tuesday afternoon. With that said, the current Playoff picture goes as follows:
The following seven drivers have clinched a spot in the 12-driver postseason field: AJ Allmendinger, Ty Gibbs, Justin Allgaier, Noah Gragson, Josh Berry, Austin Hill, Brandon Jones.
Can Clinch Via Points
If there is a repeat winner or a win by a driver who cannot advance to the playoffs, the following drivers could clinch by being 111 points above the fourth winless driver in the standings. The same point requirements listed below would hold true if a new win comes from among Riley Herbst, Sam Mayer or Daniel Hemric.
Riley Herbst: Could only clinch with helpSam Mayer: Could only clinch with help
If there is a new winner from Landon Cassill or another winless driver lower in the standings but still eligible to advance to the playoffs, the following drivers could clinch by being 111 points above the third winless driver in the standings.
Riley Herbst: Could only clinch with help
Can Clinch Via Win
The following drivers would clinch on their win alone: Riley Herbst, Sam Mayer, Daniel Hemric, Landon Cassill, Ryan Sieg, Sheldon Creed, Anthony Alfredo, Brandon Brown
The following drivers could clinch with a win:
Myatt Snider: Could only clinch with helpJeb Burton: Could only clinch with help
Denny Hamlin running double duty at Darlington
In the last few years, it has seemed that Cup Series regular Denny Hamlin only joins in on Xfinity Series fun once per season — Darlington Raceway weekend. In his 14 starts, he‘s posted five wins (2006, 2007, 2010, 2015 and 2017), 10 top fives and 12 top 10s. Every one of his wins has been won from the pole or first starting position.
Hamlin has created quite the buzz around himself at Darlington in the Xfinity Series, currently leading all active drivers in poles (five), wins (five), top fives (10), top 10s (12) and laps led (629). He‘s also the most recent driver to have won a Xfinity Series Darlington race from the pole or first starting position (2017).
His Cup Series Darlington stats don‘t fall too far behind. In his 20 starts, he‘s posted four wins (2010, 2017, 2020 and 2021), 11 top fives and 15 top 10s.
Hamlin will be making his first Xfinity Series start of the 2022 season behind the wheel of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, but he won‘t be the only Cup Series driver entered in this weekend‘s Sports Clips haircuts VFW Help A Hero 200 Ty Dillon, Kyle Larson, and Ross Chastain will also be getting some extra track time in this weekend.
Dillon will be piloting the No. 02 Our Motorsports Chevrolet for his fourth Xfinity Series start of the season. He‘s posted seven Xfinity Series starts at Darlington with three top 10s and a best finish of seventh in 2017.
Larson will be driving the No.17 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. This will be his third Xfinity Series start of the season and if all goes like the last two, he could very well find himself in Victory Lane. His first start was at Road America where he finished runner-up and his most recent start was at Watkins Glen where he took home the checkered flag. He‘s posted four Xfinity Series starts at Darlington Raceway and racked up one top five and four top 10s.
Chastain will be teaming up with Big Machine Racing to drive the No. 48 Chevrolet for his fourth Xfinity Series start of the 2022 season. In his six Xfinity Series starts at Darlington, he‘s posted one top five and three top 10s.
NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.
Sunoco Rookie of the Year update — The regular season is starting to wrap up and Richard Childress Racing‘s Austin Hill has really separated himself from the rest of the rookie class. Going into this weekend‘s race at Darlington, he leads the group with 703 points.
RCR teammate Sheldon Creed comes in next with 493 points. He has posted two top fives and nine top 10s this season.
Kyle Sieg sits in third with 190 points and Jesse Iwuji slides in next with 84 points.
Ryan Ellis to honor Jeff Gordon with a throwback paint scheme — Alpha Prime Racing announced that Keen Parts/ CorvetteParts.net will be running a throwback paint scheme on Ryan Ellis‘ No. 44 Chevrolet this weekend at Darlington Raceway to honor NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon. It‘ll be the iconic flames scheme that Gordon drove for many years.
“Jeff was definitely my favorite driver growing up, so it‘s really cool to be able to run this scheme with Keen Parts,” said Ellis. “I had so much ‘24‘ apparel and dressed up as Jeff for Halloween, so it‘ll be really meaningful to put a similar looking fire suit on and strap into the CorvetteParts.net Chevy at Darlington Raceway.”
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
CRAFTSMAN® returns as NASCAR Truck Series Title Sponsor in 2023
NASCAR and Stanley Black & Decker (NYSE: SWK), the world‘s largest tool company and a leader in outdoor equipment, announced last week at Daytona International Speedway that American tool icon CRAFTSMAN® will return as the title sponsor of the NASCAR Truck Series beginning in 2023. After serving as the series‘ title sponsor from its inception in 1995 to 2008, the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series will make its homecoming at Daytona International Speedway on February 17, 2023.
In addition to the Truck Series title sponsorship, Stanley Black & Decker will further expand its presence in the sport, entering into a multi-year partnership designating the company and its iconic brands as the “Official Tools Partner of NASCAR” and “Official Tools” of all NASCAR-owned and operated tracks.
“We celebrate the return of the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series with our customers, distribution partners and employees,” said Doug Redpath, President of Hand Tools, Accessories and Storage for Stanley Black & Decker. “From proud homeowners and homebuilders to auto enthusiasts and master mechanics, CRAFTSMAN has been the brand generations have trusted to get the job done. The Truck Series represents authentic, bold and proud drivers and fans, which embody the same characteristics of our CRAFTSMAN brand. We look forward to our return in Daytona in 2023 to reunite with our loyal fans as we begin this new chapter in NASCAR history.”
NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series title sponsorship includes exclusive brand integrations on vehicles, crew uniforms, tracks and more in addition to the branding of the Triple Truck Challenge and Championship Race entitlement. It will also serve as a platform to support the launch of new products, amplify seasonal promotions, and highlight the many ways CRAFTSMAN is building pride.
Clinch Scenarios: As Kansas Speedway approaches
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will return to action next weekend at Kansas Speedway on Sept. 9 at 7:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. A lot will be on the line as the competitors return to action as Kansas will be the cutoff race for the Round of 10 and only eight Playoff drivers will advance to the next round.
Only two drivers have clinched spots in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs‘ Round of 8 — GMS Racing‘s Grant Enfinger (Indianapolis winner) and Kyle Busch Motorsports‘ Chandler Smith (Richmond winner) — which means six other positions that are still open with one race to go. Below are the clinch scenarios heading into the Round of 10 finale at Kansas Speedway on September 9, 2022.
The following two drivers have clinched a spot in the eight-driver field of the next round: Chandler Smith, Grant Enfinger.
Can Clinch Via Points
If there is a repeat winner or a win by a driver who cannot advance to the next round, the following drivers could clinch by being ahead of the seventh winless driver in the standings. The same point requirements listed below would hold true if a new win comes from among Zane Smith, John Hunter Nemechek, Ty Majeski, Stewart Friesen, Ben Rhodes or Matt Crafton.
Zane Smith: Would clinch with 10 pointsJohn Hunter Nemechek: Would clinch with 13 pointsTy Majeski: Would clinch with 20 pointsStewart Friesen: Would clinch with 25 pointsBen Rhodes: Would clinch with 34 points (needs 35 points if Crafton wins)Matt Crafton: Would clinch with 53 pointsCarson Hocevar: Would clinch with 55 points (needs help if Crafton wins)Christian Eckes: Could only clinch with help
If there is a new winner from Carson Hocevar or Christian Eckes, the following drivers could clinch by being ahead of the sixth winless driver in the standings.
Zane Smith: Would clinch with 13 pointsJohn Hunter Nemechek: Would clinch with 16 pointsTy Majeski: Would clinch with 23 pointsStewart Friesen: Would clinch with 28 pointsBen Rhodes: Would clinch with 38 pointsMatt Crafton: Could only clinch with helpCarson Hocevar: Could only clinch with helpChristian Eckes: Could only clinch with help
Can Clinch Via Win
The following drivers would clinch on their win alone: Zane Smith, John Hunter Nemechek, Ty Majeski, Stewart Friesen, Ben Rhodes, Matt Crafton, Carson Hocevar and Christian Eckes.
— NASCAR —