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NASCAR Starting Lineup for Sunday's Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway

NASCAR Starting Lineup for Sunday's Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway

Joey Logano won the pole for the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series playoff opener at Darlington Raceway.

The NASCAR Cup Series opens its 10-race playoff on Sunday, Sept. 4 at Darlington Raceway with the running of the Cook Out Southern 500. Sixteen (16) drivers are eligible to compete for the championship, a number that will be whittled down to four by Phoenix Raceway in early November.

Related: Cook Out Southern 500 Prediction and Preview

Here are the 16 drivers who qualified for this year’s postseason, split up by the team they drive for.

Hendrick Motorsports (4): Alex Bowman, William Byron, Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson

Joe Gibbs Racing (3): Christopher Bell, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin

Team Penske (3): Ryan Blaney, Austin Cindric, Joey Logano

Richard Childress Racing (2): Austin Dillon, Tyler Reddick

Stewart-Haas Racing (2): Chase Briscoe, Kevin Harvick

Trackhouse Racing Team (2): Ross Chastain, Daniel Suarez

In the owner’s championship playoff, the No. 45 Toyota (driven now by Bubba Wallace over the final 10 races) replaces Team Penske’s No. 12 and Ryan Blaney in the 16-car field. Kurt Busch, the full-time driver of the No. 45, waived his playoff eligibility after getting sidelined by a concussion at Pocono Raceway earlier this month.

The drivers have a challenging postseason debut at Darlington, a uniquely shaped 1.367-mile oval that hosted the sport’s first 500-mile race in 1950. The Southern 500 is one of NASCAR’s crown jewel events, a true test of driver skill and tire management around this egg-shaped track.

The different radiuses of turns 1 and 2 versus 3 and 4 mean your car is never handling perfectly here. Hitting the wall is almost a certainty over the course of 500 miles; it’s just whether you can keep that Darlington Stripe from hampering the speed of your racecar.

May Darlington winner Joey Logano earned the pole for this race, his second of the season. Eight of the top nine qualifiers are eligible for the championship while the ninth, Bubba Wallace, is fighting for that owner’s title.

Just 36 cars showed up to attempt this year’s Southern 500, all of whom had a guaranteed spot in the field. That left the Cup Series four short of its maximum 40-car grid for the first time since Richmond Raceway in mid-August.

1. Joey Logano (P)
2. Christopher Bell (P)
3. William Byron (P)
4. Tyler Reddick (P)
5. Kyle Busch (P)
6. Austin Cindric (R) (P)
7. Kyle Larson (P)
8. Bubba Wallace (running for owner’s title)
9. Ryan Blaney (P)
10. Michael McDowell
11. Denny Hamlin (P)
12. Ross Chastain (P)
13. Austin Dillon (P)
14. Justin Haley
15. Erik Jones
16. Alex Bowman (P)
17. Martin Truex Jr.
18. Kevin Harvick (P)
19. Chase Briscoe (P)
20. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
21. Ty Gibbs (i)
22. Aric Almirola
23. Chase Elliott (P)
24. Daniel Hemric (i)
25. Brad Keselowski
26. Landon Cassill (i)
27. Chris Buescher
28. Harrison Burton (R)
29. Ty Dillon
30. Cole Custer
31. Todd Gilliland (R)
32. Cody Ware
33. JJ Yeley (i)
34. Corey LaJoie
35. BJ McLeod (i)
36. Daniel Suarez (P)

(R) – Rookie
(i) – Ineligible to collect Cup Series points
(P) – Playoff driver

Qualifying Notes

  • Joey Logano (first) earned the pole and is seeking a season sweep at Darlington Raceway. Logano has never won the Southern 500.
  • Christopher Bell (second) was the highest-qualifying Toyota. Bell was the only Toyota driver to finish inside the top 10 during the May race held at Darlington.
  • William Byron (third) is seeking his first top-5 finish since Martinsville in April. The highest-qualifying Chevrolet driver was leading late during the May event before Logano bumped Byron’s No. 24 car out of the way to win.
  • Austin Cindric (sixth) was the highest-qualifying rookie driver in the field. He’s also the only freshman to make this year’s playoff.
  • Kyle Larson (seventh) has never won at Darlington despite three runner-up finishes in his last four starts at the track. He has 686 career laps led in nine starts.
  • Bubba Wallace (eighth) replaces Kurt Busch in the No. 45 car at 23XI Racing. Wallace switched numbers in order to run for the owner’s championship as the team’s lone remaining full-time driver.
  • Ty Gibbs (21st) continues to sub for the injured Kurt Busch at 23XI Racing but has had his number switched to 23.
  • JJ Yeley (33rd) replaces David Ragan behind the wheel of the Rick Ware Racing Ford. Ragan scored a ninth-place finish for the team at Daytona but is only running a limited schedule this season.
  • Daniel Suarez (36th) was not allowed to qualify after failing pre-race inspection three times. He must also do a pass-through penalty at the start of the race for the infraction, losing car chief Eddie D’Hondt Jr.

Related: Best Darlington Raceway Drivers for DraftKings

NASCAR Race Breakdown

Race: Cook Out Southern 500
Track: Darlington Raceway (Darlington, S.C.)
Date: Sunday, Sept. 4
TV: USA Network, 6 p.m. ET
Distance: 367 laps (500 miles)
Stage 1: 115 Laps
Stage 2: 115 Laps
Stage 3: 137 Laps

Pre-Race Preview

Adam Stern of the Sports Business Journal stops by The Frontstretch Podcast with Bryan Nolen to speak on all the latest NASCAR Silly Season rumors. Then, Dalton Hopkins joins host Bryan Nolen to dissect Daytona and figure out which of the 16 Cup Series playoff drivers has the most momentum entering this weekend’s postseason opener at Darlington Raceway.