NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Cook Out Southern 500
The Place: Darlington Raceway
The Date: Sunday, September 3
The Time: 6 p.m. ET
The Purse: $8,260,258
TV: USA, 5:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR (Channel 90)
Distance: 501.32 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 2
The Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
The Purse: $1,703,502
TV: USA, 3 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 CRAFTSMAN Truck Series
Next Race: Kansas Lottery 200
The Place: Kansas Speedway
The Date: Friday, September 8
The Time: 8 p.m. ET
The Purse: $703,005
TV: FS1, 7:30 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
Darlington Raceway jump starts the 20th season of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs
Another spectacular regular season has concluded in the NASCAR Cup Series, the 16-driver Playoff field is set and jump starting the postseason action this year is the ‘Track Too Tough To Tame‘ — Darlington Raceway.
The 2023 season marks the 20th year the NASCAR Cup Series has crowned its champion in a Playoff format, and just the fourth-time the postseason has opened at Darlington Raceway (2020-2023). Racing at the historic ‘Lady In Black‘ is a contest unto itself, but the competitors vying for this season‘s title are ready for the challenge in this year‘s Cook Out Southern 500 on September 3 at 6 p.m. ET on USA Network, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoff ScheduleTrackRace NameDateDarlington RacewayCook Out Southern 500Sunday, September 3, 2023Kansas SpeedwayHollywood Casino 400Sunday, September 10, 2023Bristol Motor SpeedwayBass Pro Shops Night RaceSaturday, September 16, 2023Texas Motor SpeedwayAutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 400Sunday, September 24, 2023Talladega SuperspeedwayYellaWood 500Sunday, October 1, 2023Charlotte Motor Speedway Road CourseBank of America ROVAL 400Sunday, October 8, 2023Las Vegas Motor SpeedwaySouth Point 400Sunday, October 15, 2023Homestead-Miami SpeedwayNCS Race at Homestead-MiamiSunday, October 22, 2023Martinsville SpeedwayXfinity 500Sunday, October 29, 2023Phoenix RacewayNASCAR Cup Series ChampionshipSunday, November 5, 2023
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 in 2021. 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 Chicagoland Speedway 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, 2021DarlingtonErik JonesSunday, September 4, 2022
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. The last two seasons, Kyle Larson (2021) and Joey Logano (2022) finished second at Darlington Raceway to open the Playoffs and went on to win the title.
Last season, Erik Jones became the first non-Playoff driver to win 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 William Byron enters this season‘s Playoffs as the No. 1 seed with 36 Playoff points at his side. Last season‘s champion, Joey Logano started the 2022 Playoffs as the second seed. The deepest seed that an eventual champion has started in the Playoffs was seventh, by Kevin Harvick in 2014 and Joey Logano in 2018.
Historically iconic Darlington Raceway is a challenge for the competitors
Darlington Raceway is the perfect stage for 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs‘ opener, the Cook Out Southern 500 (Sunday, Sept. 3 at 6 p.m. ET on USA, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The historic 1.366-mile, egg-shaped, paved oval has hosted 124 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 73 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 124 NASCAR Cup Series races has produced 53 different pole winners and 53 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 six of the 53 NASCAR Cup Series pole winners at Darlington Raceway are active this weekend, led by Kevin Harvick (2014, 2017) and Joey Logano (2022 sweep) with two poles each.
Active Darlington Pole WinnersPolesSeasonsJoey Logano22022 sweepKevin Harvick22017, 2014Martin Truex Jr12023William 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 53 NASCAR Cup Series Darlington Raceway race winners, 29 have multiple wins and eight are active this weekend.
Active Darlington Race WinnersWinsSeasonsDenny Hamlin42021-2, 2020-2, 2017, 2010Kevin Harvick32020-3, 2020-1, 2014Erik Jones22022, 2019Martin Truex Jr22021, 2016William Byron12023Joey Logano12022Brad 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 31.4% 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 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-Miami, 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 20th running of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs (2004-2023) 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, 47 different drivers have qualified for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs; including this season‘s 16-driver field. Only one driver this season is making his Playoff career debut in the NASCAR Cup Series — Bubba Wallace. Veterans Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick are making their NASCAR Cup Series record 17th 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, seven former NASCAR Cup Series champions make up the 16-driver Playoff field (active champions that are in the Playoffs are bolded in the chart below); Richard Childress Racing‘s Kyle Busch (2015, 2019) and Team Penske‘s Joey Logano (2018, 2023) are the only active competitors with multiple NASCAR Cup Series championships.
NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Era Champions (2004-2022)RankTitlesDrivers (10)Years17Jimmie Johnson2016, ‘13, ‘10, ‘09, ‘08, ‘07, ‘0622Joey Logano2023, ’18Kyle Busch2019, ’15Tony Stewart2011, ‘0541Kyle Larson2021Chase Elliott2020Martin Truex Jr. 2017Kevin Harvick2014Brad Keselowski201210Kurt Busch2004
A total of 10 different organizations are represented in this season‘s NASCAR Cup Series Driver Playoffs — Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, RFK Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Trackhouse Racing, 23XI Racing, Team Penske, Front Row Motorsports, JTG Daugherty Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing.
All three NASCAR Cup Series official engine manufacturers have qualified for the Playoffs as well, led by Ford with six entries into the postseason, followed by Ford and Toyota with five each.
Looking ahead to Darlington Raceway, eight former winners are entered in the race this weekend; led by Denny Hamlin (2022 2020, 2017, 2010) with four wins. Kevin Harvick (2020-3, 2020-1, 2014) and Martin Truex Jr. (2016, 2021) are the only other Playoff drivers this season with multiple wins at Darlington Raceway.
Driver listed below are by seeding heading into Darlington:
William Byron (No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet) heads to Darlington Raceway as the No. 1 seed in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,036 points — up +29 points on the Round of 12 cutoff — in his fifth consecutive appearance in the postseason (2023, ‘22, ’21 ’20, ’19). Byron is currently tied in points with Joe Gibbs Racing‘s Martin Truex Jr. but owns the No. 1 seed due to the tiebreaker of most wins. Byron has made 10 NASCAR Cup Series starts at Darlington Raceway amassing one pole, one win (2023), three top fives and four top 10s. His average finish at the 1.366-mile track is 16.8. If Byron were to win this weekend, he would become the 14th different driver in the NASCAR Cup Series to post consecutive wins at Darlington; Dale Earnhardt (1989-1990) and Jeff Gordon (1995-1996) are tied for the series-most consecutive wins at Darlington with three each.
Martin Truex Jr. (No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) heads to Darlington Raceway as the Regular Season Champion — just the second driver in the series to win multiple Regular Season Championships (2017, 2023); joining Kyle Busch (2018, 2019). Truex enters the Playoffs as the No. 2 seed with 2,036 points — up +29 points on the Round of 12 cutoff — in his 10th postseason appearance (2023, ’21 ’20, ’19, ’18, ’17, ’16, ’15, ’12, ’07). Truex has made 22 series starts at Darlington Raceway, putting up one pole, two wins (2016, 2021), four top fives and 10 top 10s. His average finish at the 1.366-mile track is 13.2.
Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) heads to Darlington Raceway as the No. 3 seed in this season‘s NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,025 points — up +18 points on the Round of 12 cutoff — in his record setting 17th postseason appearance (2023, ‘22, ’21, ’20, ’19, ’18, ’17, ’16, ’15, ’14, ’12, ’11, ’10, ’09, ’08, ’07, ’06). Hamlin has made 22 series starts at Darlington Raceway, putting up one pole, four wins (series-most among active drivers: 2010, 2017, 2020, 2021), 12 top fives and 16 top 10s. His average finish at Darlington is 7.7 — best among active drivers.
Chris Buescher (No. 17 RFK Racing Ford) rolls into Darlington Raceway after winning the regular season finale at Daytona International Speedway as the No. 4 seed in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,021 points — up +14 points on the Round of 12 cutoff — in his second appearance in the postseason (2023, ‘16). Buescher has made 12 series starts at Darlington posting three top-10 finishes. His average finish at Darlington is 17.5.
Kyle Busch (No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet) arrives at Darlington Raceway as the No. 5 seed in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,019 points — up +12 points on the Round of 12 cutoff — in his 16th postseason appearance (2023 ‘22, ’21 ’20, ’19, ’18, ’17, ’16, ’15, ’14, ’13, ’11, ’10, ’08, ’07, ’06). Busch has made 23 series starts at Darlington posting one win (2008) six top fives and 14 top 10s. His average finish at the 1.366-mile track is 13.4.
Kyle Larson (No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet) heads to Darlington Raceway as the No. 6 seed in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,017 points — up +10 points on the Round of 12 cutoff — in his seventh postseason appearance (2023, ‘22, ’21, ’19, ’18, ’17, ’16). Larson has made 11 series starts at Darlington, posting five top fives and seven top 10s. His average finish at 1.366-mile facility is 10.1 — second-best among active drivers.
Christopher Bell (No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) heads to Darlington Raceway as the No. 7 seed in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,014 points — up seven points on the Round of 12 cutoff — in his third postseason appearance (2023, ‘22, ‘21). Bell has made eight series starts at Darlington Raceway, collecting one top-five and two top-10 finishes. His average finish at Darlington is 16.0.
Ross Chastain (No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet) rolls into Darlington Raceway as the No. 8 seed in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,011 points — up four points on the Round of 12 cutoff — in his second career postseason appearance (2023, ‘22). Looking to Darlington, Chastain has made eight series starts at the egg-shaped track accumulating one top-five and one top-10 finish. His average finish at Darlington is 22.8.
Brad Keselowski (No. 6 RFK Racing Ford) returns to Darlington Raceway as the No. 9 seed in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,010 points — up three points on the Round of 12 cutoff — in his 11th appearance in the postseason (2023, ’21 ’20, ’19, ’18, ’17, ’16, ’15, ’14, ’12, ’11). Keselowski has made 19 series starts at Darlington Raceway posting one pole, one win (2018), six top fives and 10 top 10s. His average finish at Darlington is 11.7 — third-best among active drivers.
Tyler Reddick (No. 45 23XI Racing Toyota) arrives at Darlington Raceway as the No. 10 seed in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,009 points — up two points on the Round of 12 cutoff — in his third career appearance in the postseason (2023, ‘22, ‘21). Reddick has made eight series starts at Darlington Raceway posting two top-five and three top-10 finishes. His average finish at Darlington is 12.5.
Joey Logano (No. 22 Team Penske Ford), last season‘s champion, heads to Darlington Raceway as the No. 11 seed in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,008 points — up just one point on the Round of 12 cutoff — in his 10th postseason appearance (2023, ‘22, ’21 ’20, ’19, ’18, ’16, ’15, ’14, ’13). Logano returns to the ‘Lady In Black‘ having made 19 series career starts at Darlington grabbing two poles, one win (2022), six top fives and 10 top 10s. His average finish at Darlington is 13.2.
Ryan Blaney (No. 12 Team Penske Ford) heads to Darlington Raceway as the No. 12 seed in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,008 points — up just one point on the Round of 12 cutoff — in his seventh postseason appearance (2023, ‘22, ’21 ’20, ’19, ’18, ’17). Blaney has made 13 series starts at Darlington, posting two top-10 finishes. His average finish at the South Carolina track is 17.8.
Michael McDowell (No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford) arrives at Darlington Raceway as the No. 13 seed in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,007 points — one point back from Ryan Blaney in the 12th and final transfer spot on points to the Round of 12 — in his second appearance in the NASCAR Cup Series postseason (2023, ‘21). McDowell has made 16 series starts at Darlington putting up two top-10 finishes. His average finish at the historic track is 26.4
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet) will start the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs as the No. 14 seed with 2,005 points – three points behind the Round of 12 cutoff — in his second appearance in the postseason (2023, ’17). Stenhouse has made 15 series starts at Darlington Raceway putting up one top-10 finish. His average finish at the egg-shaped track is 23.0.
Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford) starts off the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs as the No. 15 seed with 2,004 points — back four points from the Round of 12 cutoff — in his record setting 17th career postseason appearance (2023, ‘22 ’21, ’20, ’19, ’18, ’17, ’16, ’15, ’14, ’13, ’12, ’11, ’10, ’08, ’07, ’06). Harvick has made 31 series starts at Darlington Raceway grabbing three wins (2014, 2020-1, 2020-3), 13 top fives and 19 top 10s. His average finish at Darlington is 12.4.
Bubba Wallace (No. 23 23XI Racing Toyota) is climbing off of Cloud-9 this week after earning the final spot into the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs in the regular season finale at Daytona. Now the Alabama native heads to Darlington Raceway as the No. 16 seed with 2,000 points — back eight points from the Round of 12 cutoff — in his first postseason appearance (2023). Wallace has made 10 series starts at Darlington posting one top five and two top 10s. His average finish at Darlington is 20.8.
NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Standings Outlook Following Race No. 26RankDriverPointsRace WinsStage WinsPlayoff PtsPts From Cutoff1William Byron2,0365836292Martin Truex Jr.2,0363636293Denny Hamlin2,0252525184Chris Buescher2,0213121145Kyle Busch2,0193219126Kyle Larson2,0172317107Christopher Bell2,014121478Ross Chastain2,011151149Brad Keselowski2,0100410310Tyler Reddick2,009149211Joey Logano2,008138112Ryan Blaney2,008138113Michael McDowell2,007127-114Ricky Stenhouse Jr.2,005105-315Kevin Harvick2,004014-416Bubba Wallace2,000000-8
NASCAR Cup Series has produced some great competition this season
The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series regular season (first 26 races) has produced a plethora of statistical records and has proven to be one of the best seasons to date. Below is a look some of the superlative stats from this season:
The 2023 season with 14 different Cup winners is tied with the 2007, ‘12, ‘17 and ‘21 seasons for the third-most winners through the first 26 races of a season in the Modern Era (1972-Present). The 2003 and 2022 seasons hold the record for the most winners through 26 races at 16 different winners each.
The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season has produced an average of 10.2 lap leaders per race through the first 26 races of the year and is ranked as the seventh-most in the 52 years of the Modern Era (1972-2023); this season is up +1.5% over last season‘s 10.0. The 2011 season holds the record for the most average leaders through the first 26 races of a season at 12.8.
The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season‘s 1.181-seconds average Margin of Victory the seventh closest through the first 26 races since the advent of electronic scoring in 1993 (31 seasons total). The 2001 season holds the series record for the closest average Margin of Victory through the first 26 Cup races of a season with a 0.755-second.
The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season has produced 1,247 Green Flag Passes for the Lead through the first 26 points-paying races of the year — series-most since 2007 (last 17 seasons).
This is the second consecutive season the NASCAR Cup Series has set a new series-high in Green Flag Passes for the Lead through the 26-race regular season — 2023 (1,274) and 2022 (1,077).
A total of 15 of the 26 races (57.6%) during the NASCAR Cup Series 2023 regular season produced positive year-over-year percentage changes.
The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season has produced 108,817 Total Green Flag Passes in the first 26 points-paying races of the year – the series-most since 2007 (last 17 seasons).
This is the second consecutive season the NASCAR Cup Series has set a new series-high in Green Flag Passes through the 26-race regular season — 2023 (108,817) and 2022 (84,807).
A total of 21 of the 26 NASCAR Cup Series races (80.7%) this season have produced a positive year-over-year percentage change in Total Green Flag Passes. The three largest positive percentage changes were New Hampshire (+94.3%), Talladega (+87.3%) and Daytona-1 (+78.6%).
NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.
NASCAR Youth Series will compete at Darlington Raceway, Aug. 31 — Sept. 3 – As if the professionals of today weren‘t exciting enough to watch, the NASCAR Youth Series presented by Cook Out will showcase the sport‘s stars of tomorrow August 31st through September 3rd at Darlington Raceway. Drivers ages 5-16 will race in the Manheim parking lot outside of Turns 1 & 2 providing fans with even more action leading up to the 74th running of the Cook Out Southern 500.
“We‘re honored to welcome the NASCAR Youth Series to be a part of this historic weekend,” said Darlington Raceway President Kerry Tharp. “At such an early age, with that amount of talent, these young racers are on their way to showing what it takes to compete at the Track Too Tough to Tame.”
The NASCAR Youth Series presented by Cook Out is the sanctioning body for the quarter-midget racing division of the United States Auto Club (USAC). It is a family-oriented motorsport that involves children ages 5-16 racing in specially prepared cars. The cars, rules and safety procedures are designed specifically for kids. Quarter-midget racing is divided into 15 classes/divisions. Kids typically race on oval dirt, concrete or asphalt tracks approximately 1/20th of a mile long.
A quarter-midget car is a scaled down version of an actual midget racer. The cars are built around a tubular frame and are fully suspended with springs or torsion bars and shocks. The bodies are fiberglass. The engines are single cylinder and are manufactured by Honda and Briggs & Stratton.
With almost 60 NASCAR Youth Series-sanctioned clubs located all across the country, thousands of kids ages five and up, along with their families, participate in quarter-midget racing. Some notable NASCAR graduates of quarter midget racing include Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, Alex Bowman, Ryan Blaney, Justin Allgaier, Harrison Burton, Justin Haley, Daniel Dye and Todd Gilliland. For more information, visit www.nascaryouth.com.
Donnie Allison named Grand Marshal for Darlington Raceway‘s NASCAR Cup Series Hauler Parade – Darlington Raceway announced today that newly-elected NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Donnie Allison will be the Grand Marshal for the annual NASCAR Cup Series Hauler Parade as part of the Crown Royal presents Darlington Labor Day Race Weekend.
“Donnie Allison is a legend in our sport, and we‘re honored to have him be a part of this great tradition,” said Darlington Raceway President Kerry Tharp. “His toughness and tenacity define the Too Tough to Tame spirit that embodies this race track and those who dare to challenge it each year.”
A member of NASCAR‘s famed “Alabama Gang” and an ambassador for the sport for more than 50 years, Allison never planned to be a race car driver. But when Donnie‘s older brother, Bobby, made the claim that Donnie could never be a driver, well, Donnie set out to prove him — and anyone else — wrong.
Like Bobby, Donnie got his start racing modifieds and worked his way to the top level of stock car racing. After winning the 1967 Cup Series Rookie of the Year, Allison partnered with famed mechanic Banjo Matthews where he experienced his most success. In 1970, Allison won three races for Matthews, including the Coca-Cola 600. The following weekend he finished fourth in the Indianapolis 500, setting a record for best-combined finish in the two-race crossover that still stands today.
But Allison might be best-known for his role in NASCAR‘s most famous moment — his 1979 Daytona 500 fight with Cale Yarborough. An intense battle for the win ended with both drivers wrecked, scuffling in the infield. It all happened on the first nationally televised NASCAR race and made headlines across America. The publicity was instrumental to the growth of NASCAR and remains one of the defining moments in the sport‘s history.
“The fans have been so supportive through the years, and I can‘t wait to see them all along the parade route,” said Allison. “Darlington Raceway holds a special place in my heart and the history of our sport. I‘m proud to be associated with it.”
The parade is Friday, Sept. 1, with the route beginning at Florence-Darlington Technical College and ending at the Track Too Tough to Tame. Beginning at 4 p.m., fans are invited to the Florence-Darlington Technical College staging area, where they can take photos with their favorite haulers while enjoying live music and food from local vendors.
Allison will participate in a fan Q&A at 5 p.m., followed by an autograph session from 5:15-5:45 p.m. The haulers will depart Florence-Darlington Technical College at 6:00 p.m. and make their way to historic Darlington Raceway where they will load into the Cale Yarborough NASCAR Cup Series Garage.
NASCAR Xfinity Series
Xfinity heads back to the Lady in Black
After some superspeedway action at the World Center of Racing, the NASCAR Xfinity Series will be heading to Darlington Raceway for the penultimate race in the regular season. Drivers will take on the Lady in Black for the Sport Clips Haircuts VFW Help A Hero 200 on Saturday, September 2 at 3:30 p.m. ET on the USA Network, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Heading into the weekend, this will be the 67th NASCAR Xfinity Series race at “the track too tough to tame.” The previous 66 races have produced 36 different race winners and 32 different pole winners. Fifteen races have been won from the pole or first starting position, most recently by Denny Hamlin in 2017.
NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin sits as the track‘s winningest driver in the series, tallying eight wins (1993, 1994 sweep, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2000 sweep). He‘s also set the record for most poles (eight), top fives (14), top 10s (18) and laps led (972).
The track has also been memorable for some drivers as it has been a place of “firsts”. Justin Ashburn (2003), Denny Hamlin (2004) and John Jackson (2011) all 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.
Saturday, September 2 will be a one stop shop for drivers. They will kick off their morning with practice at 10:35 a.m. ET, followed by qualifying at 11:05 a.m. ET on the NBC Sports App before gearing up for the Sport Clips Haircuts VFW Help A Hero 200 later that afternoon at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Is the track “Too Tough To Tame?”
Darlington Raceway‘s 1.366-mile has been nicknamed the “the track too tough to tame” but for some, the taming has come easy as four drivers entered in this weekend‘s NASCAR Xfinity Series race have conquered the Lady in Black — Justin Allgaier, Brandon Jones, Cole Custer and Kyle Larson.
JR Motorsports‘ Justin Allgaier is coming off a long-awaited win at Daytona International Speedway and heads to Darlington as the only drivers with multiple wins at the track. In his 16 starts, he has posted two wins (2021, 2022), seven top fives and 12 top 10s. He posted a runner-up finish when the series ran at the track earlier this season for NASCAR‘s official throwback weekend.
JRM teammate Brandon Jones hasn‘t quite had the season he was hoping for but could very well snag his first win of the season this weekend at Darlington Raceway. He‘s made 11 starts at the track, posting one win (2020), one pole (2022), two top fives and five top 10s.
Stewart-Haas Racing‘s Cole Custer has been dominant on the 1.366-mile South Carolina track, posting a top-five or top-10 finish in all four of his starts. His win came in 2019 in a race where he bested Tyler Reddick by a mere .602 seconds.
Cup Series regular Kyle Larson will get behind the wheel of the No. 17 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for his third Xfinity Series start of the 2023 season. One of his previous starts this season was at Darlington Raceway where he landed himself in Victory Lane. If Larson 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).
Clinch scenarios: Two to go in the regular season
There are only two races left in the regular season so drivers will be pushing the limits to secure their spot in the 2023 Playoffs. As we head into the weekend, let‘s take a look at the clinch scenarios:
The following 8 drivers have clinched a spot in the 12-driver postseason field: Austin Hill, Justin Allgaier, John Hunter Nemechek, Cole Custer, Sam Mayer, Chandler Smith, Sammy Smith, Jeb Burton.
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 56 points above the 4th winless driver in the standings. The same point requirements listed below would hold true if a new win comes from among Josh Berry, Sheldon Creed or Daniel Hemric.
Josh Berry: Would clinch with 21 pointsSheldon Creed: Could only clinch with helpDaniel Hemric: Could only clinch with help
If there is a new winner from Parker Kligerman or another winless driver lower in the standings but still eligible to advance to the playoffs, the following drivers could clinch by being 56 points above the 3rd winless driver in the standings.
Josh Berry: Would clinch with 54 pointsSheldon Creed: Could only clinch with help
Can clinch via win
The following drivers would clinch on their win alone:
Josh Berry, Sheldon Creed, Daniel Hemric, Parker Kligerman, Riley Herbst, Brandon Jones, Brett Moffitt, Kaz Grala, Parker Retzlaff, Ryan Sieg, Jeremy Clements, Anthony Alfredo, Josh Williams, Joe Graf Jr.
Can clinch Regular Season Championship
Additionally, the Regular Season Championship could be clinched by the following drivers:
Austin Hill: Could only clinch with help
It‘s crunch time at Darlington Raceway
Eight drivers have clinched their way into the Playoffs, leaving four spots up for grabs. Sheldon Creed, Josh Berry, Daniel Hemric and Parker Kligerman currently hold those spots on points and will be sure to give it all they have to secure their spot.
Richard Childress Racing‘s Sheldon Creed has made three starts at Darlington Raceway. Although he‘s yet to snag a win at Darlington, he did post a runner-up finish in last year‘s September race. If he makes it to the post season, it will mark his first Xfinity Series Playoff appearance.
JR Motorsports‘ Josh Berry has made five starts at the Lady in Black, posting one top five and three top 10 finishes. Like Creed, he has also come extremely close to tasting victory, finishing runner-up in 2021. Berry made his first Xfinity Series Playoff appearance last season where he made it to the Championship Four.
Kaulig Racing‘s Daniel Hemric has nine Darlington starts under his belt, posting one top five and three top 10 finishes. He‘s no stranger to making Playoff runs, already with four Xfinity Series Playoff appearances on his resume and even a championship trophy in his trophy case (2021).
Big Machine Racing‘s Parker Kligerman has three stints at Darlington Raceway with a best finish of 13th. Kligerman is in his second full-time Xfinity Series season. If he manages to stay above the cutline, he will make his first Playoff appearance.
NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.
Sunoco Rookie of the Year update — The regular season is on the verge of wrapping up and Chandler Smith continues to lead the pack as he has all season long with one win (Richmond), five top fives, nine top 10s and 675 points.
Joe Gibbs Racing‘s Sammy Smith still sits close behind with one win (Phoenix), four top fives, 10 top 10s and 609 points.
Jordan Anderson Racing‘s Parker Retzlaff has posted one top five and six top 10s this season, accumulating 456 points.
Closing out the competition is Blaine Perkins with 196 points.
NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series
CRAFTSMAN Truck Series prepares for Round of 10 finale at Kansas Speedway
For the second time this season, the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series will return to Kansas Speedway and this time it will be for the Round of 10 finale – the Kansas Lottery 200 (Friday, September 8 at 9 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN, and SiriusXM Radio).
Located in the booming Village West area near Kansas City, Kansas Speedway houses a 1.5-mile tri-oval. Construction on the speedway began in 1999 in Kansas‘ Wyandotte County. Shortly after it began, NASCAR and the Indy Racing League announced they would both bring a slate of events to the area for its inaugural racing season. The grandstands opened on June 2, 2001, for the speedway‘s first races.
The 1.5-mile track has hosted 26 CRAFTSMAN Truck Series races since its inaugural CRAFTSMAN Truck Series event on July 7, 2001 — a race won by Ricky Hendrick, driving the No. 17 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Next weekend, Kansas Speedway will play host to the Round of 10 finale where only four spots remain to advance to the Round of 8.
Notably, there have been 22 different winners at Kansas Speedway. Sixty-four time CRAFTSMAN Truck Series winner and NASCAR Cup Series star Kyle Busch along with CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Playoff contender Matt Crafton are tied for the series-most wins at the track with three wins a piece.
Practice and qualifying for the Kansas Lottery 200 will begin Friday, September 8 at 3:35 p.m. ET.
Grant Enfinger sweeps Milwaukee Mile to secure his spot in Round of 8
Just four days after his organization announced it would cease its operations at the end of the season, GMS Racing‘s veteran Grant Enfinger grabbed a pivotal win at the Milwaukee Mile.
Enfinger completely took the track by storm, starting on the pole, sweeping both stages, and leading 95 of 175 laps. The driver of the No. 23 GMS Racing Chevrolet passed Carson Hocevar for the lead on lap 159 after methodically picking off drivers one by one from the back on new tires. He then pulled away to win his third race of the season by 1.553 seconds.
The dominant victory was the veteran‘s 10th triumph in 168 races and his 10th top-10 finish in 2023. The Fairhope, Alabama native has recorded his 10 wins at 10 different tracks: Talladega (2016), Las Vegas (2018), Daytona, Atlanta, Richmond, Martinsville (2020), IRP (2022), Kansas, Gateway, and Milwaukee (2023).
The competitors have a week off before heading back to Kansas Speedway, where earlier in the year Enfinger prevailed late to collect his first win of the season.
As for the other nine NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Playoff contenders, the return to the Milwaukee Mile had its ups and downs:
Hocevar (second), Eckes (third), Heim (fourth), Crafton (fifth), Majeski (seventh), Smith (12th), Rhodes, (16th), Sanchez (24th), DiBenedetto (27th).NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Playoff OutlookFollowing The Milwaukee Mile – Aug. 27, 2023RankDriverStartsPointsRace WinsStage WinsPlayoff Pts+ /- Cutoff1Grant Enfinger (P)182,1143324In On Win2Ty Majeski (P)182,0331621In on Win3Corey Heim (P)172,1262530704Christian Eckes (P)182,1172419615Carson Hocevar (P)182,1123221566Zane Smith (P)182,0852422297Matt Crafton (P)182,06501298Nicholas Sanchez # (P)182,05902539Ben Rhodes (P)182,0561113-310Matt DiBenedetto (P)182,039002-20
Rhodes, DiBenedetto on the outside looking in
Following the Clean Harbors 175 at the Milwaukee Mile, ThorSport Racing veteran Ben Rhodes and Rackley W.A.R.‘s Matt DiBenedetto find themselves below the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Round of 8 cutline.
Last weekend, 2021 NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Champion Ben Rhodes had to battle all afternoon and managed to finish 16th at the Milwaukee Mile and left the 1.015-mile paved oval just three points back from the Round of 8 cutline. The 2023 season is the 26-year-old‘s sixth Playoff appearance.
The contenders will head to Kansas Speedway next weekend where Rhodes previously finished 16th but led 17 laps. In 11 starts at the 1.5-mile oval, the Louisville, Kentucky native has two top-five finishes, five top-10 finishes and a total of 59 laps led. His best finish in the Sunflower State was second in Spring 2019.
Unlike the vast Playoff experience Rhodes has, Matt DiBenedetto is in his first appearance in the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Playoffs. It‘s been 19 races since DiBenedetto‘s last visit to Victory Lane (Talladega, 2022) but the Grass Valley, California native knows how to race his way into the top 10 — he‘s recorded 10 top-10 finishes so far this season. The driver of the No. 25 Rackley W.A.R. Chevrolet had an unfortunate day at the Milwaukee Mile, finishing 27th and is now twenty points back from the Round of 8 cutline and the final transfer position.
Currently, Rev Racing‘s rookie Nick Sanchez is in the eighth and final position to transfer to the next round in the Playoffs on points. Just ahead of Sanchez in seventh is ThorSport Racing driver and three-time CRAFTSMAN Truck Series champion Matt Crafton, up nine points on the Round of 8 cutline.
Playoff Clinch Scenarios: Approaching Kansas Speedway
With two of the three races in the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Playoffs Round of 10 in the books, here is a look at the clinch scenarios for the 10-driver field:
The following 4 drivers have clinched a spot in the 8-driver field of the next round: Corey Heim, Christian Eckes, Grant Enfinger, Ty Majeski.
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 7th winless driver in the standings. The same point requirements listed below would hold true if a new win comes from among Corey Heim, Christian Eckes, Carson Hocevar, Zane Smith, Matt Crafton or Nicholas Sanchez.
Carson Hocevar: Would clinch regardless of finishZane Smith: Would clinch with 27 pointsMatt Crafton: Would clinch with 47 pointsNicholas Sanchez: Would clinch with 53 pointsBen Rhodes: Would clinch with 55 points (needs help if Nicholas Sanchez wins)Matt DiBenedetto: Could only clinch with help
If there is a new winner from Ben Rhodes or another winless driver lower in the standings but still eligible to advance to the next round, the following drivers could clinch by being ahead of the 6th winless driver in the standings.
Carson Hocevar: Would clinch with 2 pointsZane Smith: Would clinch with 30 pointsMatt Crafton: Would clinch with 50 pointsNicholas Sanchez: Could only clinch with helpBen Rhodes: Could only clinch with helpMatt DiBenedetto: Could only clinch with help
Can clinch via win
The following drivers would clinch on their win alone: Carson Hocevar, Zane Smith, Matt Crafton, Nicholas Sanchez, Ben Rhodes, Matt DiBenedetto.
NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series, Etc.
Carson Hocevar to drive No. 42 Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet in NASCAR Cup Series at Darlington Raceway — Legacy Motor Club announced that NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Playoff contender and standout driver Carson Hocevar will pilot the No. 42 Sunseeker Resort Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 during the Southern Cookout 500 at Darlington Raceway this weekend.
The 20-year-old is currently ranked fourth in the CRAFTSMAN Truck Series championship point standings and has accumulated three wins, nine top-five finishes, 10 top- 10 finishes, and has led a total of 223 laps this season. Hocevar made his NASCAR Cup Series debut at Gateway driving the No. 7 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet where he began a good run, but unfortunately found himself involved in a crash and did not finish.
“This is a great opportunity to get some seat time in the Cup Series and help out the team at LEGACY M.C.,” said Hocevar. “I had the chance earlier this year to race at St. Louis in the Cup Series. I‘m looking forward to working with Luke (Lambert) and the No. 42 team, and if anyone knows how to get around Darlington, Erik Jones does, so it will be great to have him as a teammate.
— NASCAR —