NASCAR at Darlington: Starting lineup for the Southern 500, the Cup Series’ playoff opener

The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs — a 16-driver, 10-race shootout for the championship — kick off Sunday at Darlington Raceway with the Southern 500 (6 p.m. ET, NBCSN), one of NASCAR’s “crown jewel” races.

And should the winner be a playoff driver, he’ll automatically advance out of the Round of 16 and into the Round of 12.

Kyle Larson enters the playoffs at the top of the standings, but after two consecutive wins to end the regular season, Ryan Blaney in second is the one with all the momentum. And after Blaney’s victory at Daytona International Speedway last weekend, he’ll start the Southern 500 on the pole.

Related: NASCAR playoff preview: How all 16 drivers fared at the 10 playoff tracks this year so far

However, because of the challenges related to racing during the COVID-19 pandemic, most race weekends this season do not include practice or qualifying sessions. That goes for playoff races too, and the playoff drivers will start at the front of the field.

So without qualifying, NASCAR determines the starting lineup with a formula based on these factors:

  • 25 percent: Driver’s finishing position from the previous race
  • 25 percent: Car owner’s finishing position from the previous race
  • 35 percent: Team owner points ranking
  • 15 percent: Fastest lap from the previous race

Here’s a look at the starting lineup for the Southern 500 at Darlington.

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