Joey Logano wins pole for Cup Series playoff opener at Darlington

Joey Logano will lead the field to green for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs opener at Darlington Raceway (6 p.m. ET, USA Network, NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) after putting down a fastest lap of 168.521 mph.

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It’s Logano’s second pole of the season and 24th of his career. His other pole also came at Darlington in the spring, a race he won for his first points-paying victory of the year.

Logano completed the first season sweep of pole positions at the ‘Lady in Black’ since Sterling Marlin accomplished the feat in 1992.

“I love winning,” exalted Logano, who earned his second Busch Light Pole Award of the season and the 24th of his career. “When you fire off in the Playoffs, you want to have a good start to it. This (No. 1) pit stall here is so important-it really helped us win the race here in the spring.

“(Crew chief) Paul (Wolfe) did a good job adjusting on our car from the spring race and even from practice as well. We keep trying to find the speed and got a couple of poles here at Darlington this year.”

Christopher Bell came just short of snagging the pole from the No. 22 Team Penske Ford with a 168.469 mph lap. He will join Logano on the front row.

Logano and Bell were two of eight Playoff drivers who advanced to the final round of qualifying. The exceptions were eighth-place qualifier Bubba Wallace, who is competing for the owners’ championship in the No. 45 23XI Toyota, and 10th-place Michael McDowell.

William Byron, Tyler Reddick and Kyle Busch round the top five in the Cup lineup followed by Austin Cindric, Kyle Larson, Wallace, Ryan Blaney and Michael McDowell, who make up the top 10 starters for the Cook Out Southern 500.

Cindric showed consistent speed through Saturday’s practice and qualifying session as the No. 2 Penske Ford was fastest in the lone practice with a 167.699 mph lap. Byron, Reddick and Logano also posted top-10 times in practice that matched their qualifying speed.

Playoff drivers will be spread throughout the field Sunday as many struggled through practice and qualifying.

Daniel Suárez didn’t put down a lap in Saturday’s qualifying session after failing pre-race inspection three times in the morning. The No. 99 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet will start at the rear of the field Sunday evening and serve a pass-through penalty at the green flag.

Denny Hamlin and Ross Chastain have made headlines together throughout the season and found each other again this weekend as they were the highest of playoff drivers not to make the final round of qualifying. They will pair up in Row 6.

Austin Dillon will roll off 13th. Alex Bowman (16th), Kevin Harvick (18th), Chase Briscoe (19th) and Chase Elliott (23rd) will all have work to do to get to the front Sunday evening.

The NASCAR Wire Service contributed to this report.