2022 Southern 500 Playoffs Open

Everything you need to know for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Darlington, the first playoff event of the 2022 campaign.

Where: Darlington, South Carolina
Approximate start time: 6 p.m. ET | Weekend schedule
TV/Radio: USA, NBC Sports app, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR radio | Full TV lineup
Handbag: $7,823,733
Provide: A chance of showers and thunderstorms before 8pm. Partly cloudy, with a low around 69, according to NOAA.gov | Weather tracking
Race distance: 367 spins | 501.3 miles
Steps: 115 | 230 | 367
Pit road speed: 45 mph
Warning car speed: 50 mph
Darlington 101: Get the full detail
First line:
Where the pilots will leave on Sunday
Pit stops: see where your driver goes to the pits on Sunday
Playoff grid: print yours now

Key things to watch out for 🔑

Great story line

Darlington is one of the most dangerous tracks to navigate on the Cup Series schedule. High tire wear and high speeds force drivers over the wall to keep up with the best of them, struggling to avoid the dreaded “Darlington Strip”. This circuit is not easy to master and is as seasoned as the pilots who have found success there. Only one driver under 30 has won here in the last 14 races – Erik Jones in 2019. Reviving the Cup Series playoffs with such an iconic and difficult race could immediately separate contenders from contenders. Will age and experience be the story of this playoff? Or will the crop of four first-time suitors shock the field?

Who fired? Who is not ?

Denny Hamlin is arguably the best bet at Darlington, based on his professional success. But it’s Kevin Harvick who has been the most consistent lately. Harvick has an incredible 13 straight top-1s on the track and has won three of the last 12 races here. Finishing fourth in May brought his number of lead laps in races there to 12 of the last 16. Coming into the playoffs with new form that makes him a top contender, Harvick is definitely one to watch this weekend and moving forward.

For a driver as talented as Christopher Bell, it’s hard to understand why he struggled at Darlington in the Cup Series. Bell has five finishes of 11th or worse in six career starts, but that’s not saying how well he’s raced overall and could continue to race here. Based on the speed of the past few weeks, Bell and the No. 20 group clearly have something to prove. Expect them to readjust and build on Bell’s career-best result of sixth in May.

Driving under the radar

Yeah, yeah, it’s very hard to say that Joey Logano drives under the radar. But is anyone picking him to win the championship this season? It looks like Group #22 fought on every type of track. Plus, four finishes of eighth or better in the last five races here, including the win in May, make him a strong contender to claim an early knockout berth. Logano has two wins this season and only one finish outside the top 12 since June. With all the talk of top title contenders, don’t forget to throw Logano’s name into the mix.

The sun sets behind the stands at Darlington.

Race day essentials ✅

Our biggest bits of the week – get covered for race day from every angle.

• Paint scheme preview: All dressed up for the “Lady in Black” | Choose a favorite
• Power ratings: Is it Chase Elliott’s title to lose? | Ranking of updated drivers
• NASCAR Betting: Odds for Darlington 2022 playoff race | Underdogs, value bets
• Fantastic Fast Lane: It’s playoff time, Fantasy Live style | Top games, sleepers
• Drivers at the rear: Who is a Cup Series Round of 16 sleeper? | Watch the debate
• Meet the suitors: Driver analysis in the playoffs | Read more
• Our staff speaks: NASCAR.com Staff Playoff Predictions | See them here

Catch the pack 💨

Read headlines from the week leading up to Sunday’s race.

• Predictions: Predict the winner of every Cup Series playoff race | Do you agree? | No clear favorite
• Playoff Trends:
Drivers with most playoff berths in era of eliminations | See them here | Winners of each opening
• Press Pass Info: Chastain steps in in Round 1 of playoffs | Gustafson praises Elliott

• Information about crashes: The impacts of the Next Gen in the spotlight, under observation | Read more
• Number exchange:
Bubba Wallace now in Toyota #45 | Read more
• Pit road: Drivers must overcome these challenges to advance in the playoffs | Sunoco Pit Stop Failure
• DVP Clock:
Goes 10 minutes from six for the playoffs | Read more
• Renewed Rivalries:
Revisit this season’s rivalries ahead of the opener | Do you remember these?
• New paint:
Chase Elliott pilots the exclusive DESI9N to DRIVE scheme | See here
• Kyle Busch:
Two-Time Champion Weighing Multiple Bids | Read more
• Justin Alexander:
Crew chief to leave RCR’s No. 3 Chevy after season | Read more
• @nascarcasm:
Best ways to fill out your playoff grid | The opinion of an expert
• eNASCAR:
Wilson grabs top seed for iRacing Series Playoffs | Read more

Get in on the action 💰

Think you know NASCAR? Test your mettle with play, fantasy.

• The Action Network: Deciding the Cindric-Dillon “coin-flip” match | Read more
• PariMGM:
Breaking down driver matches for Darlington | Read more
• More bets:
Elliott overvalued as favorite, Darlington parity shows | Read more
• Play live:
Complete NASCAR Fantasy Live 2022 Game Guide | New rules for the playoffs
• Go until the end :
2022 Cup Series Championship Odds | See them here

Back to the ‘Lady in Black’ 🖤

Winning at one of NASCAR’s most iconic tracks is always a treat, but it’s harder than it looks.

• Story behind the name: Why Darlington is the ‘Lady in Black’ | Depth distribution
• Last year:
Denny Hamlin storms the doors with a winning statement | Full recap, highlights
• Return: Remember Busch, the Battle of Craven in 2003? | Watch it again
• Burton, Gordon:
Jeff Burton reflects on the 1997 loss to Jeff Gordon at Darlington | look here

Fast facts ⏩

Hard-hitting, race-relevant stats from the experts at Racing Insights.

The last four races at Darlington have each been won by a different driver.
The Darlington winner finished in the top 10 in Stages 1 and 2 in all nine races with stages.
A driver has led more than 100 laps in 21 of Darlington’s last 22 races,
Erik Jones in 2019 is Darlington’s only winner under 30 in the last 14 races.
Six drivers have won their first Cup Series victory at Darlington, most recently Regan Smith in May 2011.

Say what? 🎙

Find out what the playoff drivers had to say ahead of this week’s crucial Round of 16 race.

• Quotes from drivers during the Cup playoff media day

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