The highly anticipated 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs opener is a showdown at an iconic crown jewel — Darlington Raceway in South Carolina. The Cook Out Southern 500 is Sunday, Sept. 6, at 6 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) and the NBC Sports App.
For radio coverage, tune in to MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio beginning at 5 p.m. ET.
The track “Too Tough to Tame” is a 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval that debuted as NASCAR’s first ever superspeedway in 1950. NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson holds the record for most all-time wins at the track with 10.
Turns 1 and 2 are banked at 25 degrees, while Turns 3 and 4 feature 23-degree banking. Both the frontstretch and backstraight measure 1,229 feet with minimal banking.
Stages 1 and 2 are scheduled for 115 laps apiece. The final stage is slated to end on Lap 367 for a total of 501.3 miles.
Since the playoffs will continue with the absence of practice or qualifying, NASCAR officials will set the starting lineups with a new competition-based formula, taking into account factors following the previous event.
Chase Elliott will start on the Busch Pole for Sunday’s race, joined by Denny Hamlin on the front row.
RELATED: Full starting lineup
The 2020 NASCAR rules package for intermediate-sized tracks will be in effect with a tapered spacer used to set a target of 550 horsepower. The cars will use aero ducts in addition to other aerodynamic devices to increase downforce.
RELATED: Preview Darlington throwbacks
Each Cup Series team will be provided 13 sets of Goodyear “Blue Streak” Speedway Radials. The blue-streaked side wall makes a reappearance for the annual throwback weekend.
The test of man vs. machine will be on display, as teams attempt to outduel their opponents with increased tire wear and pressure-filled pit road strategy. Racing on one of the most abrasive surfaces on the circuit, tires will wear at a rapid rate and teams will likely take four tires at every opportunity.
“It will be a busy and exciting slate of racing at Darlington this weekend,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing. “Not only are all three national series in action, it is ‘Throwback’ weekend and the first race of the Cup playoffs. Darlington is a major challenge for all involved, with the Cup cars having to go 500 miles on a tight track with an abrasive track surface. Drivers that are better at tire management will improve their lot over the course of a full fuel run — being easier on their tires early in a run and maybe giving up a few spots, but gaining a lot back as we go 30, 40, 50 laps. However the race plays out and the caution flags fall, racing at Darlington is always great for the fans watching.”
PLAYOFF STATS TO KNOW
— The Round of 16 in the NASCAR Playoffs takes place at three tracks: Darlington Raceway, Richmond Raceway and Bristol Motor Speedway. With each playoff-eligible driver’s points adjusted to a baseline number of 2,000, playoff points earned during the regular season are then added. Playoff drivers who win a race in the Round of 16 automatically advance to Round of 12.
— Chad Knaus leads all active crew chiefs with his 17th NASCAR Playoffs appearance, leading the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro piloted by William Byron. Teammates Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman also join the HMS stable in the playoffs, placing them in a three-way tie for second-most cars in the field. Stewart-Haas Racing leads with four.
— Kevin Harvick has won at least one playoff race in each of the last eight seasons, earning the veteran the longest active streak in the series. The record is 13 seasons, set by seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson.
— Kurt Busch has made the playoffs seven times during the elimination format but has never made it to the Championship 4, giving him the most playoff appearances by a current playoff driver without making the Championship 4.
— The last playoff race won by a non-playoff eligible driver was Phoenix 2017, was won by Matt Kenseth who had been eliminated during the Round of 12.
Source: Racing Insights
For a more interactive experience, head over to NASCAR.com or the NASCAR app to check out an enhanced Race Center, live Lap-by-Lap coverage, the customizable live leaderboard with Scanner (which is FREE for both races), and the return of Drive (featuring in-car cameras).
2019 RACE WINNER
Erik Jones’ lone checkered flag of the season came in the 2019 Southern 500, outpacing the field and leading 79 laps for his first win at the track “Too Tough to Tame.” Jones has never finished outside the top 10 at Darlington in five career races there.
RELATED: Odds, lines for Southern 500
ACTIVE DARLINGTON WINNERS
Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin (three each); Kevin Harvick (two); Erik Jones, Martin Truex Jr., Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch (one each).