Blaney awarded pole position for Cup Playoff opener at Darlington

Ryan Blaney will commence the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs by starting on pole position for the upcoming Playoff opener at Darlington Raceway for the Cook Out Southern 500 on Labor Day weekend.

Blaney, who is coming off back-to-back regular-season victories at Michigan International Speedway and at Daytona International Speedway, was awarded the pole position based on a metric formula that measures a driver’s finishing result from the previous Cup race (25 percent), car owner’s finishing result from the previous Cup race (25 percent), team owner ranking (35 percent) and fastest lap from the previous (15 percent).

The formula, which was utilized as NASCAR continues to adapt with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, has been used in 19 of the 26-race regular-season stretch, and will be used in nine of the 10 Playoff races, beginning this upcoming weekend at Darlington Raceway. The lineup for the season finale at Phoenix Raceway scheduled on November 7 will be determined via on-track qualifying.

The pole award will mark Blaney’s first of the 2021 Cup Series season as he will also become the 13th different competitor to start on the pole for a Cup event. The High Point, North Carolina, native has achieved three victories throughout the regular-season stretch and is entered in the Playoffs for a fifth consecutive season as he contends for his first Cup championship. He will also attempt to award his crew chief, Todd Gordon, a second title before the veteran crew chief retires at season’s end.

Joining Blaney on the front row will be Denny Hamlin, a two-time Southern 500 champion. Kurt Busch and Chase Elliott, the reigning Cup Series champion, will line up in the second row followed by Alex Bowman and Kyle Larson, the 2021 Cup Series regular-season champion who has won five times this season.

Tyler Reddick, one of three newcomers to this year’s Playoffs, will start in seventh place followed by Aric Almirola, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Christopher Bell, William Byron, Michael McDowell and Brad Keselowski will round out the top-16 starting spots on the grid occupied by Playoff contenders.

Starting in 17th place as the highest non-Playoff competitor will be Ryan Preece followed by Ryan Newman, Bubba Wallace and Justin Haley.

Starting in positions 21-29 are Austin Dillon, Erik Jones, Ross Chastain, rookie Chase Briscoe, Corey LaJoie, Daniel Suarez, BJ McLeod, Josh Bilicki and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Starting in positions 30-37 are Matt DiBenedetto, Cole Custer, rookie Anthony Alfredo, Cody Ware, Chris Buescher, Joey Gase, James Davison and Quin Houff.

The Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington, which will launch the start of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, is scheduled to start on Sunday, September 5, 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


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