The first round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs continues this weekend at Kansas Speedway after a historic start to the championship run last Sunday at Darlington Raceway.
Erik Jones won the Southern 500 at Darlington, becoming the first non-playoff driver to win the playoff opening race since the debut of the NASCAR postseason in 2004.
A fourth-place run at Darlington boosted Joey Logano into the playoff standings lead, and a last-place finish dropped Chase Elliott from first to ninth.
Sunday’s race (3 p.m. ET) will be televised by the USA Network. Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series races also are scheduled at Kansas.
Playoff Recipe: Scrambled, Well
When the checkered flag fell Sunday night at Darlington Raceway, the playoff standings immediately looked very different from their appearance at the beginning of the race.
For example, 15 of the 16 drivers in the standings changed position. Kyle Busch, who was 11th entering the race and 11th after the race, was the only driver who stayed in the same spot.
MORE: NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings
The biggest mover was Chase Elliott, whose last-place finish at Darlington dropped him eight spots to ninth in the standings. Kevin Harvick dropped seven places to 16th. Christopher Bell showed the biggest gain, moving from 10th to fourth.
Drivers below the cutoff line entering Kansas are Austin Cindric (-2), Austin Dillon (-4), Chase Briscoe (-10) and Harvick (-13).
Ringing The Bell?
Christopher Bell is upwardly mobile as the playoffs move on to Kansas.
He gained six positions in the standings with a fifth-place run at Darlington and trails only Joey Logano, William Byron and Denny Hamlin on the playoff leaderboard. One of three Joe Gibbs Racing drivers in the playoffs, Bell is making a serious run at a first championship.
Bell’s 15 top-10 finishes this year are the most of all JGR drivers. He has finished in the top five in eight races, including four of the past eight, and that run includes a win at New Hampshire. That victory is the only win for a Toyota driver in the past 13 races.
Bell has three top-10 runs in the past four races at Kansas. His best career finish at the track is a fifth in May.
Can Elliott Rebound?
Chase Elliott had very little to say Sunday night after he pounded the wall early in the race and failed to finish, recording a last-place run.
He suddenly dropped from the peak to the valley, slipping eight positions from first to ninth in the point standings.
MORE: NASCAR working on fire issue
Is a rebound likely at Kansas? Elliott has one career win at the 1.5-mile oval, scoring it in October 2018. He finished 29th in the May race at Kansas. He was running sixth on lap 196 when a flat tire sent him into a spin in Turn 3.
In last October’s race, Elliott finished second to Kyle Larson.
He has six finishes of sixth or better in the past eight races at Kansas.
Thirty-six drivers are entered for Sunday’s Cup race. Landon Cassill, Noah Gragson and JJ Yeley will be joining Cup regulars.
Thirty-nine drivers are entered for Saturday’s Xfinity race. Cup regular Ross Chastain is on the list.
The Truck entry list contains 38 entries, meaning two will miss the race.
This week’s schedule and forecast
(All times Eastern)
Friday, Sept. 9
Forecast: Sunny. High of 87.
- 3 – 3:30 p.m. — Truck Series practice (FS2)
- 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. — Truck Series qualifying (FS2)
- 5:05 – 5:35 p.m. — Xfinity Series practice (USA Network)
- 5:35 – 6:30 p.m. — Xfinity Series qualifying (USA Network)
- 7:30 p.m. — Truck Series race (134 laps, 201 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
Saturday, Sept. 10
Forecast: Partly cloudy. Slight chance of a shower. High of 86.
- 12:05 – 12:50 p.m. — Cup Series practice (NBC Sports app, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
- 12:50 – 2 p.m. — Cup Series qualifying (NBC Sports app, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
- 3 p.m. — Xfinity Series race (200 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
Sunday, Sept. 11
Forecast: Partly cloudy in the afternoon. High of 70. Chance of rain 24% at the start of the race.
- 3 p.m. — Cup Series race (267 laps, 400 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)