Elliott to start on pole position for Playoff opener at Darlington

Chase Elliott was awarded the pole position and will lead the field to the start of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Playoff opener at Darlington Raceway on Sunday, September 6, for the Cook Out Southern 500.

The starting lineup was based on a modified metric formula to the starting lineup for an upcoming NASCAR race based on four stats: the driver’s result from a previous Cup race, the owner’s result from a previous Cup race, the current owner’s points standings and the fastest lap recorded from a previous race. The owner’s finishing result is a new category that was added as part of the lineup formula on September 1 and will affect the starting positions for any car/team that changes a competitor from a previous race.

In addition, with the 2020 Cup Playoffs set to commence this weekend at Darlington, the competitors competing in the Playoffs will occupy the top starting positions on the grid. Even after every round of the Playoffs, consisting of three races per round and where four competitors will be eliminated from title contention after each round until the Championship Round, the competitors still contending for the championship will line up ahead of the rest of the field on the grid for an upcoming race.

Elliott, who finished in the runner-up position in last weekend’s regular-season event at Daytona International Speedway, will lead the field to the start of a Cup race for the third time this season. This season marks Elliott’s fifth consecutive season of making the Cup Playoffs as he will contend for his first championship in NASCAR’s premier series (second division title after winning the 2014 Xfinity Series championship).

In addition, with the upcoming race at Darlington Raceway set to occur on Labor Day weekend and known as NASCAR’s throwback weekend, celebrating the past, present and future of the sport, Elliott is one of a multitude of competitors who will be sporting throwback-inspired schemes on race day on Sunday. Elliott’s No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE will mirror the 2009 scheme that teammate and seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson sported when he achieved his record-setting fourth consecutive championship as he pays tribute to Johnson’s final full-time season of racing in NASCAR.

Denny Hamlin, a three-time Darlington winner who will sport a special purple, white and orange throwback scheme to his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry while paying tribute to the inception of Federal Express in 1973 and when NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough competed in the No. 11 car during the same year, will start alongside Elliott on the front row. This season marks Hamlin’s 14th postseason season as a title contender as he pursues his first Cup title.

William Byron, fresh off his first Cup career victory last weekend at Daytona and a two-year contract extension with Hendrick Motorsports, will start in third place in a patriotic scheme that mirrors the scheme Jimmie Johnson sported when he achieved his record-leading fourth All-Star win in 2013. Teammate Alex Bowman will start alongside Byron in the second row and in a scheme that mirrors the 2006 scheme Johnson sported when he achieved his first of seven Cup titles.

Brad Keselowski, sporting a Discount Tire scheme that mirrors his 2010 Xfinity Series championship scheme, will start in fifth place alongside Martin Truex Jr., who will sport a black, yellow and red Bass Pro Shops throwback scheme that mirrors the scheme former competitor Hank Parker Jr. sported at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2003 while driving for Chance 2 Motorsports and which marked the first primary sponsorship of Bass Pro Shops.

Ryan Blaney, who will sport a blue, yellow, orange, red and white Menards throwback scheme while paying tribute to former competitor Paul Menard and his early career in racing, will start in seventh place followed by Kevin Harvick, who will sport a retro blue and white Busch Beer scheme on his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang; teammate Clint Bowyer, who will sport a blue, white and red PEAK Antifreeze scheme that mirrors the scheme former competitor Kyle Petty sported when he achieved his third Cup career victory at Rockingham Speedway in 1990; and teammate Aric Almirola, fresh off a one-year contract extension with SHR and who will sport a special red and white throwback scheme that mirrors the scheme the late NASCAR Hall of Famer Fireball Roberts sported in the 1957 season, where he won eight races.

Matt DiBenedetto, who will be sporting a red and white throwback scheme to his No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford Mustang that pays tribute and was also driven by names like Tiny Lund, Glenn Wood and Marvin Panch, will start in 11th place alongside Austin Dillon, who will sport a white and red throwback scheme to his No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE that pays tribute to the late NASCAR Hall of Famer Junior Johnson.

Joey Logano will start in 13th place and in a red and white throwback scheme that mirrors the scheme the 1983 NASCAR Cup champion Bobby Allison sported in 1985 while Cole Custer, the 2020 Cup Rookie-of-the-Year recipient, will line up in 14th place in a red and white scheme that pays tribute to the late NASCAR Hall of Famer Curtis Turner and the 1965 Ford Galaxie he drove in his final Cup season.

Finally, Kyle Busch will line up in 15th place in a throwback No. 18 M&M’s Toyota scheme that mirrors the scheme driven by former competitor/veteran Elliott Sadler in 2004 while brother Kurt will start in 16th place.

Bubba Wallace, the first non-Playoff contender, will start in 17th place followed by John Hunter Nemechek, teammate Michael McDowell and Chris Buescher. Christopher Bell will start in 21st place alongside Jimmie Johnson, who will make his 24th and final start at Darlington and is set to sport a special red, white, blue and black scheme that pays tribute to seven-time Cup champions Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.

Rounding out the field in positions 25-39 are Brennan Poole, Tyler Reddick, Ty Dillon, Matt Kenseth, Corey LaJoie, Daniel Suarez, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Erik Jones, Ryan Newman, Quin Houff, Timmy Hill, Reed Sorenson, Ryan Preece, James Davison, J.J. Yeley, Josh Bilicki and Joey Gase.

The Cook Out Southern 500, which marks the first race of the 2020 Cup Playoffs, will occur on September 6 at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com


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