The NASCAR Cup Series sure knows how to kick off its postseason with a bang. The 72nd annual running of the historic Cook Out Southern 500 marks the first race of the 2021 NASCAR Playoffs. Located in South Carolina, Darlington Raceway will host the festivities on this Labor Day Weekend. Along with being one of the oldest tracks NASCAR visits, two drastically different ends and a very abrasive surface help Darlington live up to its nickname, ‘The Track Too Tough to Tame’. The first eight rows of the Cook Out Southern 500 starting lineup are comprised of this year’s 16 playoff drivers. Of course, a win on Sunday will automatically advance them on to the Round of 8.
The following article contains all kinds of vital information to get you set for Sunday evening’s NASCAR Cup Series action. Read on for the complete Cook Out Southern 500 starting lineup, start time, race facts and NASCAR stats.
NASCAR Cup Series at Darlington Raceway
72nd Cook Out Southern 500
Date: Sunday, September 5, 2021
Start Time: 6 p.m. EST
Track: Darlington Raceway — Darlington, SC
Pole Sitter: Ryan Blaney
Defending Champion: Kevin Harvick
Cook Out Southern 500 Race Details
Distance: 501.322 miles
Lap Length: 1.366 miles
Stages: Three (Laps 1-115; 116-230; 231-367)
Cook Out Southern 500 Starting Lineup
See below for a breakdown of the qualifying metrics formula.
|Starting Position||Driver||Car Number||Team||Manufacturer|
|1||Cole Custer||41||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford|
|2||Christopher Bell||20||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota|
|3||Tyler Reddick||8||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet|
|4||Chase Briscoe||14||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford|
|5||Kyle Larson||5||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|6||Justin Haley||31||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet|
|7||Ty Dillon||42||Petty GMS Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|8||Alex Bowman||48||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|9||Chase Elliott||9||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|10||Joey Logano||22||Team Penske||Ford|
|11||Kyle Busch||18||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota|
|12||Austin Dillon||3||Richard Childress Racing||Chevrolet|
|13||Kurt Busch||45||23XI Racing||Toyota|
|14||Erik Jones||43||Petty GMS Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|15||Chris Buescher||17||Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing||Ford|
|16||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||47||JTG Daugherty Racing||Chevrolet|
|17||Michael McDowell||34||Front Row Motorsports||Ford|
|18||Brad Keselowski||6||Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing||Ford|
|19||William Byron||24||Hendrick Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|20||Austin Cindric||2||Team Penske||Ford|
|21||Daniel Suarez||99||Trackhouse Racing||Chevrolet|
|22||Bubba Wallace||23||23XI Racing||Toyota|
|23||Todd Gilliland||38||Front Row Motorsports||Ford|
|24||Harrison Burton||21||Wood Brothers Racing||Ford|
|25||Ryan Blaney||12||Team Penske||Ford|
|26||Corey LaJoie||7||Spire Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|27||Justin Allgaier||77||Spire Motorsports||Chevrolet|
|28||Noah Gragson||16||Kaulig Racing||Chevrolet|
|29||J.J. Yeley||15||Rick Ware Racing||Ford|
|30||Martin Truex Jr.||19||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota|
|31||Aric Almirola||10||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford|
|32||Kevin Harvick||4||Stewart-Haas Racing||Ford|
|33||Ross Chastain||1||Trackhouse Racing||Chevrolet|
|34||Denny Hamlin||11||Joe Gibbs Racing||Toyota|
|35||Cody Ware||51||Rick Ware Racing||Ford|
|36||Josh Williams||78||Live Fast Motorsports||Ford|
NASCAR Cup Series Qualifying Overview
Following the interruption to racing last season, NASCAR did away with practice and qualifying runs at the majority of races. A combination of grouped draws and a performance-metrics formula was used to determine starting grids. That same formula remains in place for the majority of races on the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season, including this Sunday’s Cook Out Southern 500 starting lineup.
So, what exactly is involved in the performance-metrics formula? Well, it draws on a number of factors including individual race performances and season-long results. The following breakdown illustrates the weighted grades associated with each component of NASCAR’s metrics formula:
NASCAR Cup Series Metrics Formula Breakdown
- 35 percent: Team owner points ranking
- 25 percent: Driver’s finishing position from the previous race
- 25 percent: Car owner’s finishing position from the previous race
- 15 percent: Fastest lap from the previous race
Cook Out Southern 500 Race History and NASCAR Stats
- The first running of the Cook Out Southern 500 came all the way back in 1950. The race is considered to be one of the “Crown Jewels” of the NASCAR Cup Series and is also known as the oldest superspeedway race.
- That first running in 1950 lasted over six hours from start to finish. Johnny Mantz emerged as the winner in a race that saw numerous cars blow out tires.
- The Southern 500 has as much rich history and tradition as any race in NASCAR. Among the highlights include Bill Elliott winning the Winston Million in 1985, Jeff Gordon acheiving the same feat in 1997 and Darrell Waltrip scoring his first career Cup Series victory in 1992.
- While the title sponsor of the race has chnaged several times, the event has been known as the Southern 500 for all but four years of its 72-year existence. This year is the first with Cook Out as the primary sponsor.
- Jeff Gordon tops the all-time wins list for drivers with six career Cook Out Southern 500 victories. Cale Yarborough is a close second with five while Bobby Allison stands alone in third with four.
- Among active NASCAR Cup Series drivers, only Denny Hamlin (2010, 2017) and defending race champion Kevin Harvick (2014, 2020) have won this race multiple times.
- Hendrick Motorsports’ 11 total victories lead all race teams in the history of the event. However, no HMS car has reached victory lane since Jimmie Johnson in 2012.
- Joe Gibbs Racing is second with seven total Cook Out Southern 500 wins. Four of those have come in the last eight seasons.
- Chevrolet holds a sizable 27-16 edge over Ford for the most wins among manufacturers in this race. In recent years, however, Toyota has been the top car. Camrys have won five of the last eight editions.
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