Christopher Bell claims Darlington Cup Series pole as Playoffs commence

Christopher Bell captured the pole position for the opening race of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs at Darlington Raceway with a 169.193 mph qualifying lap Saturday afternoon. It’s his third pole of the season and his seventh career pole in the series.

Bell was happy with the speed of his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota but also acknowledged the difficulty of keeping his car up front throughout the race.

“It definitely feels good. Darlington is a place that’s notoriously hard to pass, so starting up front is a really big deal,” he said. “But, with that being said, it’s an extremely long race. The Southern 500 is, in my opinion, probably harder than the Coca-Cola 600 just because of the race track that we’re at. Very long time tomorrow so starting position has no indication of where we’re going to finish, but we certainly have the speed to compete and hopefully we can keep it up front all day.”

Bell’s teammate, Denny Hamlin, will join him on the front row after posting a 169.042 mph lap. 23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick was third fastest, placing three Toyotas at the top of the field. Ford drivers scored the following seven spots with Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski rounding out the top five followed by Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Chris Buescher, Michael McDowell and Aric Almirola to complete the top 10.

Blaney, starting fourth, emphasized the importance of staying focused.

“That’s not a bad starting spot,” he said. “It’s nice to start in the top five and starting fourth. That’s really good. I’m proud of the effort today and now it’s just a matter of staying in it. Five hundred miles is a long race. It’s a super long race and you can make mistakes real easy, so it’s just a matter of focusing in on tomorrow. It was a good effort today we just have to keep improving.”

Playoff contender and Regular Season Champion, Martin Truex Jr., will start toward the back of the field in 31st after his car got loose during qualifying.

The Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway is scheduled for Sunday at 6 p.m. ET on USA with radio coverage provided by MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Playoff Drivers Starting Positions for The Cook Out Southern 500:
Christopher Bell – 1st
Denny Hamlin – 2nd
Tyler Reddick – 3rd
Ryan Blaney – 4th
Brad Keselowski – 5th
Joey Logano – 6th
Kevin Harvick – 7th
Chris Buescher – 8th
Michael McDowell – 9th
Kyle Busch – 11th
Kyle Larson – 18th
Bubba Wallace – 19th
William Byron – 23rd
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – 25th
Ross Chastain – 27th
Martin Truex Jr. – 31st

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

Angela Campbell
Angela Campbell
A native of Charlotte, NC, Angela (Angie) was first introduced to racing by her father. An avid fan of NASCAR, she found a way to combine her love of racing with her passion for writing. Angie is also an award-winning member of the National Motorsports Press Association. Follow her on Twitter @angiecampbell_ for the latest NASCAR news and feature stories.


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