NASCAR: Darlington playoff lineup if qualifying is canceled

Chris Buescher, RFK Racing, Darlington Raceway, NASCAR (Photo by David Jensen/Getty Images)
Chris Buescher, RFK Racing, Darlington Raceway, NASCAR (Photo by David Jensen/Getty Images) /

If qualifying cannot take place at Darlington Raceway on Saturday, here is how the starting lineup will look for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race.

If the weather allows for it to take place amid the impact of Hurricane Idalia, the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs are scheduled to get underway this Sunday evening with the Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Qualifying is scheduled to take place on Saturday afternoon at 1:20 p.m. ET.

In the event that qualifying for Sunday’s 367-lap race around the four-turn, 1.366-mile (2.198-kilometer) egg-shaped “Track Too Tough To Tame” oval in Darlington, South Carolina cannot take place, the starting lineup would be set by the metric.

The only difference between the playoff metric and the regular season metric is that the playoff drivers and cars are guaranteed to slot in ahead of those not in the playoffs.

Those not in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs are effectively not included in the calculation until all of the playoff drivers and cars are lined up.

The metric includes the following four factors: the driver’s finish in the most recent race (25%), the car owner’s finish in the most recent race (25%), the car owner’s rank in the owner standings (35%), and the driver’s fastest lap rank in the most recent race (35%). The first two categories are combined for drivers driving the same cars from race to race.

Keep in mind, the metric goes for both drivers and owners. So while Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott is not a playoff driver, he is still listed with the playoff drivers since his No. 9 team is in the owner playoffs, meaning that there are still 17 drivers, not 16, fighting for one of the two titles.

Here is how the Cook Out Southern 500 starting lineup would look without qualifying.

Provisional Darlington starting lineup
1st – Chris Buescher
2nd – Brad Keselowski
3rd – Kyle Busch
4th – William Byron
5th – Joey Logano
6th – Christopher Bell
7th – Chase Elliott
8th – Michael McDowell
9th – Bubba Wallace
10th – Ross Chastain
11th – Martin Truex Jr.
12th – Kevin Harvick
13th – Denny Hamlin
14th – Kyle Larson
15th – Tyler Reddick
16th – Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
17th – Ryan Blaney
18th – Aric Almirola
19th – Alex Bowman
20th – Corey LaJoie
21st – Daniel Suarez
22nd – Erik Jones
23rd – Justin Haley
24th – Ty Dillon
25th – A.J. Allmendinger
26th – Ryan Preece
27th – Todd Gilliland
28th – B.J. McLeod
29th – Austin Cindric
30th – Ty Gibbs
31st – Austin Dillon
32nd – Harrison Burton
33rd – Chase Briscoe
34th – Ryan Newman
35th – Carson Hocevar
36th – J.J. Yeley

If qualifying does take place, the qualifying order is still set by the metric, but drivers are split up into two groups and put in reverse order.

The drivers listed in the even positions above would be in group one, starting with Rick Ware Racing’s J.J. Yeley and ending with RFK Racing’s Brad Keselowski, while the drivers listed in the odd positions would be in group two, starting with Legacy Motor Club’s Carson Hocevar and ending with RFK Racing’s Chris Buescher.

The fastest five drivers in each group of single-car qualifying advance to the top 10 shootout for the pole position, so if qualifying does take place, there is no guarantee that the top 17 in the starting lineup will consist of all playoff drivers and cars.

FanDuel Sportsbook, which is offering fans $200 just for betting $5, lists Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. and Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson as co-favorites to open up the playoffs with a victory.

With odds and availability subject to change, lock in your $200 now!

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Tune in to USA Network at 6:00 p.m. ET this Sunday, September 3 for the live broadcast of the Cook Out Southern 500 from Darlington Raceway. If you haven’t yet begun a free trial of FuboTV, do so now!