NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Get Underway at ‘The Track Too Tough To Tame’

The 2022 season marks the third year the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs has opened at Darlington Raceway (2020-2022) and the competitors vying for this season’s title are ready for the challenge the Cook Out Southern 500 on September 4 (6 p.m. ET on USA Network, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) is going to bring.

2022 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Schedule
Tracks Dates
Darlington Raceway Sunday, September 4, 2022
Kansas Speedway Sunday, September 11, 2022
Bristol Motor Speedway Saturday, September 17, 2022
Texas Motor Speedway Sunday, September 25, 2022
Talladega Superspeedway Sunday, October 2, 2022
Charlotte ROVAL Sunday, October 9, 2022
Las Vegas Motor Speedway Sunday, October 16, 2022
Homestead-Miami Speedway Sunday, October 23, 2022
Martinsville Speedway Sunday, October 30, 2022
Phoenix Raceway Sunday, November 6, 2022

NASCAR Cup Series

  • Next Race: Cook Out Southern 500
  • The Place: Darlington Raceway
  • The Date: Sunday, September 4
  • The Time: 6 p.m. ET
  • The Purse: $7,823,733
  • TV: USA, 5 p.m. ET
  • Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR (Channel 90)
  • Distance: 501.3 miles (367 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 115),
  • Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 230), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 367)

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.


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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 last season. 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 Chicago to open the Playoffs and went on to win the championship that same season.

First Race Of The Playoffs – Race Winners
Track Playoff Race Winners Date
New Hampshire Kurt Busch Sunday, September 19, 2004
New Hampshire Ryan Newman Sunday, September 18, 2005
New Hampshire Kevin Harvick Sunday, September 17, 2006
New Hampshire Clint Bowyer Sunday, September 16, 2007
New Hampshire Greg Biffle Sunday, September 14, 2008
New Hampshire Mark Martin Sunday, September 20, 2009
New Hampshire Clint Bowyer Sunday, September 19, 2010
Chicago Tony Stewart Monday, September 19, 2011
Chicago Brad Keselowski Sunday, September 16, 2012
Chicago Matt Kenseth Sunday, September 15, 2013
Chicago Brad Keselowski Sunday, September 14, 2014
Chicago Denny Hamlin Sunday, September 20, 2015
Chicago Martin Truex Jr Sunday, September 18, 2016
Chicago Martin Truex Jr Sunday, September 17, 2017
Las Vegas Brad Keselowski Sunday, September 16, 2018
Las Vegas Martin Truex Jr Sunday, September 15, 2019
Darlington Kevin Harvick Sunday, September 6, 2020
Darlington Denny Hamlin Sunday, September 5, 2021

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. Last season, Kyle Larson finished second at Darlington Raceway to open the Playoffs and went on to win the title.

No non-Playoff driver has ever won 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 Chase Elliott enters this season’s Playoffs as the No. 1 seed with 40 Playoff points at his side.

The deepest seed that an eventual champion has started the Playoffs was seventh, by Kevin Harvick in 2014 and Joey Logano in 2018.

Historically iconic Darlington Raceway is a contest unto itself for the competitors

Darlington Raceway is the perfect stage for 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs opener, the Cook Out Southern 500 (Sunday, Sept. 4 at 6 p.m. ET on USA, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The historic 1.366-mile, egg-shaped, paved oval has hosted 122 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 completeThis weekend’s race will be exactly 72 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 122 NASCAR Cup Series races has produced 52 different pole winners and 52 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 five of the 52 NASCAR Cup Series pole winners at Darlington Raceway are active this weekend, led by Kevin Harvick (2014, 2017) with two poles.

Active Darlington Pole Winners Poles Seasons
Kevin Harvick 2 2017, 2014
Joey Logano 1 2022
William Byron 1 2019
Denny Hamlin 1 2018
Brad Keselowski 1 2015

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 52 NASCAR Cup Series Darlington Raceway race winners, 28 have multiple wins and seven are active this weekend.

Active Darlington Race Winners Wins Seasons
Denny Hamlin 4 2021-2, 2020-2, 2017, 2010
Kevin Harvick 3 2020-3, 2020-1, 2014
Martin Truex Jr 2 2021, 2016
Joey Logano 1 2021
Erik Jones 1 2019
Brad Keselowski 1 2018
Kyle Busch 1 2008

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 31.9% 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.

An overview:

  • 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 finished in the top 30 in points and 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).

Playoff Structure

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, 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.

Championship Finale

  • 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 19th running of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs (2004-2022) 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, 46 different drivers have qualified for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs; including this season’s 16-driver field. Four drivers this season are making their Playoff career debuts in the NASCAR Cup Series – Austin Cindric, Chase Briscoe, Ross Chastain and Daniel Suárez. Veterans Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick are making their NASCAR Cup Series record 16th 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, five former NASCAR Cup Series champions make up the 16-driver Playoff field (active champions in the Playoffs are bolded in the chart below); Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch is the only active competitor with multiple NASCAR Cup Series championships (2015, 2019).

NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Era Champions (2004-2021)
Rank Titles Drivers (10) Years
1 7 Jimmie Johnson 2016, ‘13, ’10, ‘09, ‘08, ‘07, ‘06
2 2 Kyle Busch 2019, ’15
Tony Stewart 2011, ‘05
4 1 Kyle Larson 2021
Chase Elliott 2020
Joey Logano 2018
Martin Truex Jr. 2017
Kevin Harvick 2014
Brad Keselowski 2012
10 Kurt Busch 2004

Six different organizations are represented in this season’s NASCAR Cup Series Driver Playoffs – Hendrick Motorsports, Trackhouse Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Penske.

All three NASCAR Cup Series official engine manufacturers have qualified for the Playoffs as well, led by Chevrolet with eight entries into the postseason, followed by Ford with five and Toyota with three.

Looking ahead to Darlington Raceway, six former winners are entered in the race this weekend; led by Denny Hamlin (2022 2020, 2017, 2010) with four wins. Kevin Harvick is the only other Playoff driver this season with multiple wins at Darlington Raceway with three (2020-3, 2020-1, 2014).

Driver listed below are by seeding heading into Darlington:

Chase Elliott (No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet) heads to Darlington Raceway as the Regular Season Champion and the No. 1 seed in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,040 points – up +33 points on the Round of 12 cutoff – in his seventh consecutive postseason appearance (2022, ’21 ’20, ’19, ’18, ’17, ’16). Elliott has made 11 series starts at Darlington Raceway, amassing three top fives and five top 10s. His average finish at the 1.366-mile track is 17.3.

Joey Logano (No. 22 Team Penske Ford) heads to Darlington Raceway as the No. 2 seed in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,025 points – up +18 points on the Round of 12 cutoff – in his ninth postseason appearance (2022, ’21 ’20, ’19, ’18, ’16, ’15, ’14, ’13). Logano returns to the ‘Lady In Black’ as the most recent winner, taking home the trophy earlier this season from the pole position. Logano has made 17 series career starts at Darlington grabbing a pole, one win (2022), five top fives and nine top 10s. His average finish at Darlington is 13.5.

Ross Chastain (No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet) rolls into Darlington Raceway as the No. 3 seed in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,020 points – up +13 points on the Round of 12 cutoff – in his first career postseason appearance. Looking to Darlington, Chastain has made six series starts at the egg-shaped track accumulating one top-five and one top-10 finish. His average finish at Darlington is 22.1

Kyle Larson (No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet), last season’s NASCAR Cup Series champion, heads to Darlington Raceway as the No. 4 seed in the Playoffs with 2,019 points – up +12 points on the Round of 12 cutoff – in his sixth postseason appearance (2022, ’21, ’19, ’18, ’17, ’16). Larson has made nine series starts at Darlington, posting five top fives and seven top 10s. His average finish at 1.366-mile facility is 8.8 – second-best among Playoff contenders.

William Byron (No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet) heads to Darlington Raceway as the No. 5 seed in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,014 points – up seven points on the Round of 12 cutoff – in his fourth consecutive appearance in the postseason (2022, ’21 ’20, ’19). Byron has made eight series starts at Darlington amassing two top fives and two top 10s. His average finish at the 1.366-mile track is 19.8.

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) heads to Darlington Raceway as the defending winner of this Playoff race last season and the No. 6 seed in this season’s Playoffs with 2,013 points – up six points on the Round of 12 cutoff – in his record setting 16th postseason appearance (2022, ’21, ’20, ’19, ’18, ’17, ’16, ’15, ’14, ’12, ’11, ’10, ’09, ’08, ’07, ’06). Hamlin has made 20 series starts at Darlington Raceway, putting up one pole, four wins (series-most among active drivers: 2010, 2017, 2020, 2021), 11 top fives and 15 top 10s. His average finish at Darlington is 7.7 – best among the Playoff contenders.

Ryan Blaney (No. 12 Team Penske Ford) heads to Darlington Raceway as the No. 7 seed NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,013 points – up six points on the Round of 12 cutoff – in his sixth postseason appearance (2022, ’21 ’20, ’19, ’18, ’17). Blaney is the only Playoff contender without a win this season and earned his spot on points at Daytona last weekend. Blaney has made 11 series starts at Darlington, posting one top-10 finish (eighth). His average finish at the South Carolina track is 19.0.

Tyler Reddick (No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet) arrives at Darlington Raceway as the No. 8 seed in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,012 points – up five points on the Round of 12 cutoff – in his second career appearance in the postseason (2022, ‘21). Reddick has made six series starts at Darlington Raceway posting one top-five and two top-10 finishes. His average finish at Darlington is 12.5.

Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford) starts off the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs as the No. 9 seed with 2,012 points – up five points on the Round of 12 cutoff – in his record setting 16th career postseason appearance (2022 ’21, ’20, ’19, ’18, ’17, ’16, ’15, ’14, ’13, ’12, ’11, ’10, ’08, ’07, ’06). Harvick has made 29 series starts at ‘the track too tough to tame’  grabbing three wins (2014, 2020-1, 2020-3), 13 top fives and 18 top 10s. His average finish at Darlington is 12.1.

Christopher Bell (No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) heads to Darlington Raceway as the No. 10 seed in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,011 points – up four points on the Round of 12 cutoff – in his second postseason appearance (2022, ’21). Bell has made six series starts at Darlington Raceway, collecting one top-10 finish (sixth). His average finish at Darlington is 18.1.

Kyle Busch (No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) arrives at Darlington Raceway as the No. 11 seed in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,010 points – up three points on the Round of 12 cutoff – in his 15th postseason appearance (2022, ’21 ’20, ’19, ’18, ’17, ’16, ’15, ’14, ’13, ’11, ’10, ’08, ’07, ’06). Busch has made 21 series starts at Darlington posting one win (2008) six top fives and 13 top 10s. His average finish at the 1.366-mile track is 12.9.

Chase Briscoe (No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford) rolls into Darlington Raceway as the No. 12 seed in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,009 points – up just two points on the Round of 12 cutoff in the final transfer spot on points – in his first appearance in the postseason. Briscoe has made three series starts at Darlington posting a best finish of 11th in May of 2021. His average finish at Darlington is 16.6.

Daniel Suárez (No. 99 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet) land at Darlington Raceway as the No. 13 seed in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,007 points – two points back from Chase Briscoe in the 12th and final transfer spot on points to the Round of 12 – in his first appearance in the NASCAR Cup Series postseason. Suárez is the first Mexican-born driver to earn a spot in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs (all-time). Suárez has made nine series starts at Darlington putting up one top-10 finish (10th earlier this season). His average finish at the historic track is 22.3

Austin Cindric (No. 2 Team Penske Ford) skips into Darlington Raceway as the No. 14 seed in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with 2,006 points – three points behind the Round of 12 cutoff – in his first appearance in the postseason. Cindric is the fourth different Sunoco rookie to earn a spot in the Playoffs; joining Denny Hamlin (2006), Chase Elliott (2016) and Christopher Bell (2020). Cindric made his series track debut at Darlington earlier this season; he started 19th and finished 18th.

Alex Bowman (No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet) will start the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs as the No. 15 seed with 2,006 points – three points behind the Round of 12 cutoff – in his fifth-straight appearance in the postseason (2022, ’21 ’20, ’19, ’18). Bowman has made 10 series starts at Darlington Raceway putting up one top five and two top 10s. His average finish at the egg-shaped track is 19.2.

Austin Dillon (No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet) is climbing off of Cloud-9 this week after winning his way into the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs by taking the checkered flag in the regular season finale at Daytona. Now the North Carolina native heads to Darlington Raceway as the No. 16 seed with 2,005 points – back four points from the Round of 12 cutoff – in his fifth postseason appearance (2022, ’20, ’18, ’17, ’16). Dillon has made 12 series starts at Darlington posting two top fives and five top 10s. His average finish at Darlington is an 11.9.

NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Standings Outlook Following Race No. 26
Rank Driver Points Race Wins Stage Wins Playoff Pts Pts From Cutoff
1 Chase Elliott 2,040 4 5 40 33
2 Joey Logano 2,025 2 5 25 18
3 Ross Chastain 2,020 2 5 20 13
4 Kyle Larson 2,019 2 3 19 12
5 William Byron 2,014 2 3 14 7
6 Denny Hamlin 2,013 2 3 13 6
7 Ryan Blaney 2,013 0 5 13 6
8 Tyler Reddick 2,012 2 2 12 5
9 Kevin Harvick 2,012 2 0 12 5
10 Christopher Bell 2,011 1 2 11 4
11 Kyle Busch 2,010 1 2 10 3
12 Chase Briscoe 2,009 1 4 9 2
13 Daniel Suarez 2,007 1 2 7 -2
14 Austin Cindric # 2,006 1 1 6 -3
15 Alex Bowman 2,006 1 1 6 -3
16 Austin Dillon 2,005 1 0 5 -4

NASCAR Cup Series has produced some great competition this season

The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series regular season (first 26 races) has been deemed one of the best and the numbers certainly match the eye test. The first 26 races were phenomenal from a statistical standpoint – record-breaking, even.

Series-Most Race Winners (16) Through 26 Races: The 2022 season is tied with the 2003 season for the series-most NASCAR Cup Series winners through 26 races (1949-2022) with 16 different winners each.

Most Average Leaders Since 2011; Up 9.7% Year-Over-Year: A total of 38 different drivers have led laps in the NASCAR Cup Series through the first 26 races of the season with an average of 10.04 leaders per race; up from last season’s 9.2 (+9.7%) – The 2022 season has produced the most average leaders per race since 2011 (12.77) over a decade ago.

Most Green Flag Passes For The Lead Through A Regular Season (26 Races): The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season has produced the series-most (1,162) green flag passes for the lead (GFPL) through the first 26 races of a season since the Loop Data statistic was initially tabulated in 2007 (the last 16 seasons).

NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.

The NASCAR Foundation’s Speedy Bear Brigade Powered by Kaulig Giving Expands Across the United States and Mexico – NASCAR-themed teddy bears named ‘Speedy Bear’ are being delivered to children in hospitals across the United States and Mexico as The NASCAR Foundation and Kaulig Giving join together for the sixth annual “Speedy Bear Brigade”. This year’s program expands into Mexico bringing the cumulative total to more than 8,000 Speedy Bears delivered over six years to help comfort children during their hospital stays.

The NASCAR Foundation’s Speedy Bear Brigade began delivering Speedy Bears to children earlier this week with stops in Monterrey, Mexico and Charlotte, North Carolina. NASCAR volunteers assisted with the deliveries, including representatives from the NASCAR Mexico Series who joined efforts for the first time.

“We are thrilled that our Speedy Bear Brigade continues to grow and impact more children each year,” said Nichole Krieger, The NASCAR Foundation executive director. “Support from donors like Kaulig Giving, the NASCAR Mexico Series and all of our wonderful NASCAR fans are so important in making this program a success as we help deliver cheer and positivity to children in hospitals everywhere.”

This year’s efforts mark the biggest to date with nearly 70 hospitals participating in race markets across the United States and Mexico. The initiative culminates on National Teddy Bear Day on Friday, September 9, with events in Akron, Ohio, home to Kaulig Giving headquarters and during NASCAR’s Kansas Speedway race weekend.

NASCAR Cup Series Featured Matchups: Cook Out Southern 500 – Below is a close look at the featured matchups fans can bet on heading into this weekend’s event.

Austin Dillon vs. Austin Cindric – Austin Dillon’s magical win at Daytona catapulted himself into the Playoffs in dramatic fashion. With both Richard Childress Racing cars in the Playoffs, it will be interesting to see what kind of noise they can make. Team Penske has all three cars in the Playoffs, but Daytona 500 winner Austin Cindric is the only rookie in the field. In this battle of Daytona winners, both Austin’s will try to tame the “Lady in Black”. Dillon holds the lead in driver rating with a 73 to 66 advantage, but at Darlington, anything can happen as drivers attempt to manage tire wear.

Chase Elliott vs. Denny Hamlin – Two of the championship favorites finally begin their quest to win it all this week at Darlington. While Denny has two wins in his last seven races at Darlington, Chase only has two top fives and holds a 92.3 driver rating compared to Denny’s 105.1. Although historically Hamlin has fared better at Darlington, Elliott bested him earlier this year, finishing fifth while Hamlin finished 21st. Both Denny and Chase have tons of experience at Darlington and will look to use that knowledge to start their championship run off on the right foot.

Kyle Larson vs. Kyle Busch – It’s been a rough summer for Kyle Busch, but amid his contract controversy, he currently sits 11th in the Playoff standings. If the #18 team finds its stride, there is no doubt that Busch can win his third championship. He’s looking for his first win in his last seven races at Darlington, as is his counterpart Kyle Larson, who had three straight runner-up finishes at Darlington prior to the spring race. Larson will start fourth in the standings when the green flag waves on Sunday, as he looks to defend his 2021 championship. It should be a great battle between these two on Sunday when the 2022 Playoffs get underway.

Kevin Harvick vs. Tyler Reddick – It’s been an up-and-down year for both Kevin Harvick and Tyler Reddick, but both have had a blistering hot summer. Harvick won back-to-back races at Michigan and Richmond, silencing the doubters who didn’t think he would find Victory Lane this year. Tyler Reddick won at both Indianapolis and Road America this year and has cemented himself as a serious Playoff contender. These two are neck-and-neck in the Playoff standings, sitting in eighth (Reddick) and ninth (Harvick) with 12 Playoff points. Harvick returns to one of his favorite tracks, where he owns two wins and six top fives in his last seven races at Darlington. Reddick hasn’t had as much fortune at Darlington, with only one top five in six races. Earlier this year, however, Reddick finished as the runner-up to Joey Logano. At a track like Darlington where experience is crucial, Reddick showed that he’s learning what it takes to tame the “Lady in Black”.

Rising Country Music Sensation Josiah Siska to Sing the National Anthem at Darlington – Darlington Raceway announces rising country music entertainer Josiah Siska to sing the National Anthem in advance of the first race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, the 73rd running of the Cook Out Southern 500 on Sunday, Sept. 4.

“We are proud to welcome one of the rising stars in country music, Josiah Siska, to share the National Anthem prior to the crown jewel Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway,” said Kerry Tharp, Darlington Raceway President. “Before the green flag waves to start the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, we look forward to our loyal race fans uniting to honor our nation with Josiah.”

“I am thrilled to get to sing the national anthem for NASCAR’s playoff race at the Cook Out Southern 500 on Labor Day weekend in Darlington,” said Siska. “It’s gonna be incredible. I’ve never been before and I’m so excited that I’ll get to see the race! I love America, I love our freedom, and I can’t wait to sing our country’s national anthem for everybody on race day.”

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