NASCAR Playoffs Begin at Darlington Raceway

Cars wrecking at Darlington Raceway 5-8-22
Cars wrecking at Darlington Raceway 5-8-22 (Photo credit: YouTube)

The 16-driver field is set for the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. The first race in the post season is the Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway this Sunday (9/4).

The 16 drivers that have a shot at winning the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Championship will have to make it through four rounds in the Playoffs. The first three rounds consist of three races each. The fourth and final round is a winner-take-all single race. Here are the 16 drivers that are championship eligible to start the post-season.

NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Standings Heading to Darlington Raceway (9/4)

RankDriverPointsRace WinsStage WinsPlayoff PtsPts From Cutoff
1Chase Elliott2,040454033
2Joey Logano2,025252518
3Ross Chastain2,020252013
4Kyle Larson2,019231912
5William Byron2,01423147
6Denny Hamlin2,01323136
7Ryan Blaney2,01305136
8Tyler Reddick2,01222125
9Kevin Harvick2,01220125
10Christopher Bell2,01112114
11Kyle Busch2,01012103
12Chase Briscoe2,0091492
Playoffs CutlinePlayoffs CutlinePlayoffs Cutline
13Daniel Suarez2,007127-2
14Austin Cindric #2,006116-3
15Alex Bowman2,006116-3
16Austin Dillon2,005105-4

The bottom four drivers below the “Playoffs Cutline” are currently in danger of being eliminated from the Playoffs.

All 16 drivers know that they have two ways of advancing from the current Round of 16 to the Round of 12. They have to be in the top 12 in points among the Playoff drivers at the end of the next three races or they have to win one of the next three race.

This weekend’s race will not be an easy one for the Championship hopefuls. They don’t call “The Track Too Tough to Tame” and “The Lady in Black” for nothing. Just doing well at Darlington is a challenge. Winning takes even more concentration, skill and a race car that is handling well.

Here is what all the drivers and teams will be facing this weekend.

Darlington Raceway Data
Track Length: 1.366-Miles
Degree of Banking in Corners: 25 degrees – Turns 1 & 2 and 23 degrees – Turns 3 & 4
Degree of Banking on Straights: 6 degrees
Frontstretch Length: 1,229 feet
Backstretch Length: 1,229 feet
First Race: Sept. 4, 1950 – Southern 500

Cook Out Southern 500 Data
2022 Playoff Race #1: Sunday, September 4th
Race Length: 501.32 Miles (367 laps)
Stage 1 & 2 Length: 115 Laps (each)
Final Stage Length: 137 Laps

Here are how the 16 NASCAR Cup Series Playoff drivers stack up at Darling Raceway.

RankDriverRacesPolesWinsTop FivesTop 10sDNFsAverage FinishDriver Rating 
1Chase Elliott110035317.489.1 
2Joey Logano171159113.594.6 
3Ross Chastain60011122.267.3 
4Kyle Larson9005718.9109.0 
5William Byron81022219.986.0 
6Denny Hamlin2014111507.8107.6 
7Ryan Blaney110001019.176.0 
8Tyler Reddick60012012.585.7 
9Kevin Harvick29231318112.1103.7 
10Christopher Bell60001018.274.7 
11Kyle Busch2101613213100.3 
12Chase Briscoe30000016.762.4 
13Daniel Suárez90001122.358.9 
14Austin Cindric1000001866.2 
15Alex Bowman100012119.273.9 
16Austin Dillon120025011.975.2 

* – Based on last 20 races at Darlington Raceway (2005 – 2022).

There are three active drivers that did not make the post-season, but they have won at Darlington in the Cup Series.

Martin Truex Jr. missed making the Playoffs by three points last week. He has won at Darlington twice in his Cup Series career. One of those wins was last year. You can bet he would love to play spoiler to the post-season drivers by getting his third win at the track and first win of 2022.

Brad Keselowski and Erik Jones have a win each at Darlington. I’m sure they will do what they can to grab another win at the track as a spoiler to the Playoff drivers as well.

NASCAR is the only sport where competitors that are not “in the Playoffs” still compete in the post-season next to competitors with a chance at the championship. It makes for exciting competition and often even more exciting drama for the fans to watch.

The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Playoff story begins to unfold this Sunday, September 4th at 5p.m. central time (6p.m. eastern time) in the Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

By: Buck Stevens

Buck Stevens