SOUTH CAROLINA — For the first-time in its 70-year existence (1950-Present), the historic Darlington Raceway will host the opening event for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, the Cook Out Southern 500 on Sunday at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Darlington Raceway is the fourth different track to host the first race of the NASCAR Cup Series postseason. New Hampshire Motor Speedway hosted the first race of the Playoffs from 2004–2010, then Chicagoland Speedway held the first race of the Playoffs from 2011–2017 and Las Vegas Motor Speedway hosted the first race of the Playoffs from 2018-2019.
Prior to the 2020 season, Darlington Raceway had hosted just one other Playoff race, the penultimate event in the inaugural Playoffs in 2004. The race was won by seven-time series champion and Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson.
Darlington Raceway will become just the second track in the NASCAR Cup Series Modern Era (1972-Present) to have the series compete in points-paying races more than twice in a single season; joining Riverside International Raceway in 1981. Darlington hosted its first two events of 2020 on May 17 (won by Kevin Harvick) and May 20 (won by Denny Hamlin). Darlington Raceway has hosted 118 NASCAR Cup Series races producing 51 different pole winners and 51 different race winners. Jimmie Johnson (2004 sweep, 2012), and Denny Hamlin (2010, 2017, 2020) lead all active drivers in victories at Darlington with three wins each. Eight former Darlington Cup winners are entered this weekend – Johnson (three), Hamlin (three), Kevin Harvick (two), Erik Jones, Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. (each have one).
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. (2016, 2017, 2019) and Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski (2012, 2014, 2018) lead the series in Playoff opener wins with three each.