Skip to main content

NASCAR Starting Lineup for Sunday's The Real Heroes 400 at Darlington Raceway

NASCAR Starting Lineup for Sunday's The Real Heroes 400 at Darlington Raceway

NASCAR Starting Lineup for Sunday's The Real Heroes 400 at Darlington Raceway

On Sunday, the NASCAR COVID-19 quarantine officially comes to a close. The Real Heroes 400 from Darlington Raceway will mark the first Cup Series since March 8, a historic 70-day suspension that lifts on this 1.366-mile oval.

It's only fitting Darlington's egg-shaped circuit, unique within NASCAR, also comes with a special qualifying format. The sport's COVID-19 comeback philosophy is to slowly edge back toward a new normal; this race will be a one-day show with no cars on track until the green flag.

That means qualifying was done by draw on Thursday. Drivers were put into four groups due to their team's position in owner points. Positions 1-12 were reserved for the top 12 cars in owner points, 13-24 for positions 13-24 in owner points, and 25-36 for the remaining 12 chartered teams. Positions 37 through 40 are the four "open" cars attempting the race, listed by their position in owner points. These cars never have a guaranteed spot in the field and are not a part of the sport's charter system.

Pure luck was all Brad Keselowski needed to grab the pole position. But he’s no stranger to starting up front here, qualifying on the front row for last September’s Southern 500. Alex Bowman, still seeking his first career top-10 finish at this track, will start alongside.

All cars that entered qualified for Sunday's event. Since none of them have any practice time, NASCAR is throwing a competition caution on Lap 30 to give teams another extra pit stop for in-race adjustments.

1. Brad Keselowski

2. Alex Bowman

3. Matt DiBenedetto

4. Kyle Busch

5. Aric Almirola

6. Kevin Harvick

7. Ryan Blaney

8. Jimmie Johnson

9. Joey Logano

10. Denny Hamlin

11. Chase Elliott

12. Matt Kenseth

13. Clint Bowyer

14. Cole Custer (R)

15. Martin Truex Jr.

16. Austin Dillon

17. Bubba Wallace

18. William Byron

19. Corey Lajoie

20. Erik Jones

21. Ryan Newman

22. Kurt Busch

23. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

24. Chris Buescher

25. Ryan Preece

26. Garrett Smithley (R)

27. Quin Houff (R)

28. Christopher Bell (R)

29. Tyler Reddick (R)

30. JJ Yeley (i)

31. Michael McDowell

32. Joey Gase (i)

33. Ty Dillon

34. John Hunter Nemechek (R)

35. Brennan Poole (R)

36. Reed Sorenson

37. Daniel Suarez

38. Timmy Hill (i)

39. BJ McLeod (i)

40. Josh Bilicki (i)

(R) – Rookie

(i) – Ineligible to collect Cup Series points


  • Brad Keselowski’s pole doesn’t count toward the 2021 Busch Clash because it was a random draw. It’s his fourth front row start in the last six Darlington races.
  • Alex Bowman (2nd) marked the occasion by signing a contract extension with Hendrick Motorsports this weekend. He’ll be behind the wheel of the No. 88 through 2021.
  • Matt DiBenedetto (3rd) has the best Darlington start of his career. He’d never qualified better than 19th in five previous starts.
  • Matt Kenseth (12th) will start his first Cup race since November 2018 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He’s replacing Kyle Larson behind the wheel of the No. 42 Chevrolet after Larson was fired for using a racial slur.
  • Cole Custer (14th) is the highest-qualifying rookie.
  • Cole Custer (17th) has the best starting position of six rookie drivers in the field.
  • Garrett Smithley (26th) moves to the No. 53 Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet this weekend. The Cup Series rookie has sponsorship from Trophy Tractor.
  • JJ Yeley (30th) moves to the No. 27 Rick Ware Racing Ford, with a car number recently inherited as part of their purchase from Premium Motorsports. He has sponsorship from Jacob Construction.
  • Joey Gase (32nd) jumps back to the No. 51 Rick Ware Racing Ford this weekend. Sponsorship will come from Agri Supply.
  • BJ McLeod (39th) will make his first start with his self-owned No. 78 team on the Cup level. He’ll make up to 15 starts this season in that car in a partnership with RWR.
  • Josh Bilicki (40th) shepherds the return of longtime Cup Series owner Tommy Baldwin. He’ll run 5-7 races in 2020 with sponsorship from Gravely.


Race: The Real Heroes 400

Track: Darlington Raceway (Darlington, S.C.)

Date: Sunday, May 17

Time: 3:46 p.m. ET

TV: FOX, 3:30 p.m. ET


Distance: 400 miles (293 laps)

Stage 1: 90 Laps

Stage 2: 95 Laps

Final Stage: 108 Laps


Listen to how the Darlington lineup was selected along with the latest changes to the NASCAR 2020 schedule to COVID-19 in the newest Frontstretch podcast, Stock Car Scoop.