The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs begin on Sunday evening, and a big question is on the mind of racing fans: Will Kyle Larson continue his winning ways during the Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina?
Larson leads the Cup Series with five wins on the season. Those victories helped him vault into first place in the regular-season standings and contributed to his early lead in the playoff standings. He has 2,052 points to his name, while Ryan Blaney is in second place with 2,024.
Now, Larson will look for his most important win yet. A victory at Sunday’s Southern 500 would clinch him a spot in the Round of 12, as it would for any of the 16 playoff drivers. So too would a victory in either of the next two first-round races, the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond and Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol.
Five drivers in this year’s playoff field have won the Southern 500 before: Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. have all won the event once, while Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick have won it twice apiece, including a victory during the 2020 playoffs for Harvick. Additionally, 2019 Southern 500 winner Erik Jones will be in the 37-car field, though he isn’t one of the 16 drivers that qualified for the playoffs.
Still, Larson will have some stiff competition in the race, which will last 367 laps on Darlington’s 1.366-mile oval track. It will run a total of 501.322 miles.
Sporting News is tracking live updates and lap-by-lap highlights from NASCAR’s playoff race at Darlington on Sunday night. Follow for complete results from the Southern 500.
NASCAR at Darlington live updates, highlights from Southern 500
(All times Eastern).
6:11 p.m. — The engines have been started. It won’t be long until the race begins.
6:09 p.m. — Two playoff drivers, Tyler Reddick and Denny Hamlin, ran in yesterday’s Xfinity Series race at Darlington. Reddick finished in seventh place while Hamlin finished 12th.
6:00 p.m. — The pre-race ceremonies are now underway!
5:58 p.m. — We’re almost ready to race. NBC’s pre-race coverage is ongoing and the Southern 500 is officially set to begin in 20 minutes, at 6:18 p.m. ET.
5:52 p.m. — Speaking of Elliott, he is the reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion. He raced from the poll at last year’s Southern 500, but he finished in 20th place during the race.
5:45 p.m. — Chase Elliott is driving the No. 9 car at Darlington. The design was chosen as part of the Chase Elliott Foundation’s “Desi9n To Drive” competition that benefits Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. IT features a paint scheme designed by Mary Frances Webb, a 15-year-old who receives cancer treatment at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Chase Elliott’s paint scheme designed by 15 y.o. Mary Frances Webb from Athens, Ga.
Elliott’s scheme and uniform designed by cancer patients from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta in support of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. pic.twitter.com/AcMyzMonZY
— Alex Andrejev (@AndrejevAlex) September 5, 2021
5:36 p.m. — Bad news for Austin Dillon: he’ll start the race at the back of the pack after failing multiple pre-race inspections. Dillon finished 17th in NASCAR’s regular-season standings and was the first driver out of the 16-car playoff field.
5:35 p.m. — Larson is well ahead in the playoff standings at this point. His five wins have given him a big leg up in NASCAR’s playoff standings.
5:33 p.m. — Kyle Larson was just asked what it was like coming into the playoffs as a favorite. “I haven’t thought about it,” he told NBC Sports.
5:30 p.m. — The 72nd running of the Southern 500 is nearly here, and Darlington Raceway is looking sharp and ready to race.
NASCAR start time today
- Time: 6 p.m. ET (TV time)
- TV channel: NBCSN (TSN5 in Canada)
- Live stream: NBCSports.com | fuboTV (7-day free trial)
The green flag for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race on Darlington Raceway’s 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval is scheduled to drop at 6:18 p.m. ET.
Ideal weather conditions are expected. The National Weather Service’s Sunday forecast for Darlington, S.C., is for sunny skies and temperatures in the high 80s during the daytime, and clear skies with lows in the mid-to upper 60s at night.
NASCAR starting lineup at Darlington
Here is the complete NASCAR starting lineup for Sunday’s playoff race at Darlington Raceway, the Cook Out Southern 500.
(Playoff drivers are denoted by “p-” next to their names.)
|Start pos.||Driver||Car No.||Team|
|1||p-Ryan Blaney||12||Team Penske|
|2||p-Denny Hamlin||11||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|3||p-Kurt Busch||1||Chip Ganassi Racing|
|4||p-Chase Elliott||9||Hendrick Motorsports|
|5||p-Alex Bowman||48||Hendrick Motorsports|
|6||p-Kyle Larson||5||Hendrick Motorsports|
|7||p-Tyler Reddick||8||Richard Childress Racing|
|8||p-Aric Almirola||10||Stewart-Haas Racing|
|9||p-Kevin Harvick||4||Stewart-Haas Racing|
|10||p-Martin Truex Jr.||19||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|11||p-Joey Logano||22||Team Penske|
|12||p-Kyle Busch||18||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|13||p-Christopher Bell||20||Joe Gibbs Racing|
|14||p-William Byron||24||Hendrick Motorsports|
|15||p-Michael McDowell||34||Front Row Motorsports|
|16||p-Brad Keselowski||2||Team Penske|
|17||Bubba Wallace||23||23XI Racing|
|18||Ryan Preece||37||JTG Daugherty Racing|
|19||Ryan Newman||6||Roush Fenway Racing|
|20||Justin Haley||77||Spire Motorsports|
|21||Austin Dillon||3||Richard Childress Racing|
|22||Erik Jones||43||Richard Petty Motorsports|
|23||Ross Chastain||42||Chip Ganassi Racing|
|24||Chase Briscoe||14||Stewart-Haas Racing|
|25||Corey LaJoie||7||Spire Motorsports|
|26||Daniel Suarez||99||TrackHouse Racing|
|27||BJ McLeod||78||Live Fast Motorsports|
|28||Josh Bilicki||52||Rick Ware Racing|
|29||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||47||JTG Daugherty Racing|
|30||Matt DiBenedetto||21||Wood Brothers Racing|
|31||Cole Custer||41||Stewart-Haas Racing|
|32||Anthony Alfredo||38||Front Row Motorsports|
|33||Cody Ware||51||Petty Ware Racing|
|34||Chris Buescher||17||Roush Fenway Racing|
|35||Joey Gase||15||Rick Ware Racing|
|36||James Davison||53||Rick Ware Racing|
|37||Quin Houff||00||StarCom Racing|
NASCAR playoff standings
The Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington is the first of three races in the Round of 16. The other races are the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond on Sept. 11 and the Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol on Sept. 18. The playoff field will be cut down to 12 drivers after Bristol.
|1||Kyle Larson||5||Hendrick Motorsports||2052|
|2||Ryan Blaney||12||Team Penske||2024|
|3||Martin Truex Jr.||19||Joe Gibbs Racing||2024|
|4||Kyle Busch||18||Joe Gibbs Racing||2022|
|5||Chase Elliott||9||Hendrick Motorsports||2021|
|6||Alex Bowman||48||Hendrick Motorsports||2015|
|7||Denny Hamlin||11||Joe Gibbs Racing||2015|
|8||William Byron||24||Hendrick Motorsports||2014|
|9||Joey Logano||22||Team Penske||2013|
|10||Brad Keselowski||2||Team Penske||2008|
|11||Kurt Busch||1||Chip Ganassi Racing||2008|
|12||Christopher Bell||20||Joe Gibbs Racing||2005|
|13||Aric Almirola||10||Stewart-Haas Racing||2005|
|14||Michael McDowell||34||Front Row Motorsports||2005|
|15||Tyler Reddick||8||Richard Childress Racing||2003|
|16||Kevin Harvick||4||Stewart-Haas Racing||2002|