Friday, Dec 03

NCS: What to watch for in tonight’s Southern 500 at Darlington

It’s the Playoffs: After last week at Daytona the series has moved onto Darlington Raceway for a 500-mile showdown for the second year in a row.

With Kyle Larson winning the regular season championship it’s put Denny Hamlin in a hole who hasn’t won also season. Kevin Harvick the 2014 season champion is also stuck way back at the bottom of the playoff drivers and with three races to dig out its going to be a challenge.

The winner in the first race of the playoffs have gone on to win the championship four times in the past with the last one coming in 2017 with Martin Truex Jr. championship. Kurt Busch, Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski the other three drivers to have done so.

A non-playoff driver has never won the first race of the playoffs.

 

Darlington is Tough: The Lady in Black isn’t called the track Too Tough To Tame for no reason. Tire wear throughout the event is bound to play a key in shaping up the race, it’s a balance between preserving your allotment of tires and hanging new tires to keep up with the field. In either case the Lady In Black is bound to jump out at someone with that famous Darlington stripe.

Since 1950 NASCAR has been racing here and the first Southern 500 too nearly seven hours to complete with 75 cars making up the grid that day.

Of the starting field tonight is six active drivers that have won here in the past, Kevin Harvick and Hamlin both lead with three wins followed by Truex with two and Erik Jones, Brad Keselowski and Ky. Busch all with one win each.

 

Playoff 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.
  • 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) 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.

Cut line: Michael McDowell, Aric Almirola, Tyler Reddick and Kevin Harvick all sit below the line and need to dig out quickly.

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