NASCAR at Darlington schedule: How to watch on TV, weather, odds

Kevin Harvick will look for his second straight Southern 500 win on Sunday.
USA Today

The NASCAR Cup Series visits Darlington Raceway this weekend for the first race of the 2021 playoffs.

Darlington’s Labor Day Weekend race is an annual tradition in NASCAR dating back to 1950. Beginning in 2020, the race became the first event of the 10-race playoffs. Kevin Harvick won that race after late contact between leaders Martin Truex Jr. and Chase Elliott.

After 26 grueling regular season races, 16 drivers must reset their focus and set their sights on winning the championship. For the 21 non-playoff drivers entered in the race, it’s all about stealing an upset victory at one of NASCAR’s most storied tracks.

Here’s everything you need to know for Darlington:

What is the 2021 Darlington schedule?

The race weekend at Darlington will not feature practice or qualifying sessions, as the sport attempts to cut costs for teams in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington will go green at 6 p.m. ET on Sunday, Sept. 5.

What channel is the Darlington race on?

The race at Darlington is on NBCSN starting at 6 p.m. ET on Sunday, Sept. 5.

Pre-race coverage starts with “NASCAR America” at 5 p.m. ET and “Countdown to Green” at 5:30 p.m. ET, both on NBCSN. All coverage before, during and after the race can be streamed online here or in the NBC Sports App.

Cook Out Southern 500 starting lineup

The starting lineup for the Cook Out Southern 500 was set using NASCAR’s qualifying metric, which is a formula combining each driver’s finish last week, each driver’s fastest lap last week and each driver’s points position. Here is the full starting lineup for Darlington:

  1. Ryan Blaney
  2. Denny Hamlin
  3. Kurt Busch
  4. Chase Elliott
  5. Alex Bowman
  6. Kyle Larson
  7. Tyler Reddick
  8. Aric Almirola
  9. Kevin Harvick
  10. Martin Truex Jr.
  11. Joey Logano
  12. Kyle Busch
  13. Christopher Bell
  14. William Byron
  15. Michael McDowell
  16. Brad Keselowski
  17. Bubba Wallace
  18. Ryan Preece
  19. Ryan Newman
  20. Justin Haley
  21. Austin Dillon
  22. Erik Jones
  23. Ross Chastain
  24. Chase Briscoe
  25. Corey LaJoie
  26. Daniel Suarez
  27. BJ McLeod
  28. Josh Bilicki
  29. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  30. Matt DiBenedetto
  31. Cole Custer
  32. Anthony Alfredo
  33. Cody Ware
  34. Chris Buescher
  35. Joey Gase
  36. Josh Davison
  37. Quin Houff

Who made the NASCAR playoffs?

The 16-driver playoff field was officially set after last weekend’s race at Daytona. The points standings are now reset for the playoffs with seeding based on three regular season totals: wins, stages wins and points earned. This year’s playoff field consists of seven former champions (Harvick, Truex, Elliott, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski), 15 race winners (all but Tyler Reddick) and three drivers making their postseason debuts (Reddick, Michael McDowell, Christopher Bell).

  1. Kyle Larson (2,052 points)
  2. Ryan Blaney (2,024 points)
  3. Martin Truex Jr. (2,024 points)
  4. Kyle Busch (2,022 points)
  5. Chase Elliott (2,021 points)
  6. Alex Bowman (2,015 points)
  7. Denny Hamlin (2,015 points)
  8. William Byron (2,014 points)
  9. Joey Logano (2,013 points)
  10. Brad Keselowski (2,008 points)
  11. Kurt Busch (2,008 points)
  12. Christopher Bell (2,005 points)
  13. Michael McDowell (2,005 points)
  14. Aric Almirola (2,005 points)
  15. Tyler Reddick (2,003 points)
  16. Kevin Harvick (2,002 points)

Which active drivers have won at Darlington?

Just six of the 37 drivers racing this weekend have won at Darlington: Truex, Harvick, Hamlin, Jones, Keselowski and Kyle Busch. Harvick (three), Hamlin (three) and Truex (two) have won multiple times at Darlington, with Truex winning the most recent race there earlier this year in May.

Who is favored to win at Darlington?

The best of the best typically come out at Darlington. Hall of Famers David Pearson (10 wins), Dale Earnhardt (9 wins), Jeff Gordon (7 wins), Bobby Allison (5 wins), Bill Elliott (5 wins), Darrell Waltrip (5 wins) and Cale Yarborough (5 wins) are Darlington’s all-time win leaders. Four of the six active winners at Darlington are champions. If there was ever a time to bet big on established stars, this is the week.

Harvick has ruled Darlington lately, winning two of three races at the track last season. He’s still winless in 2021 after nine victories last year, so Darlington could be the place for the lowest playoff seed to break into the win column. Truex dominated Darlington’s spring race, leading 248 of 293 laps to claim his second win at the track.

There generally isn’t a ton of value in betting on a longshot at Darlington, but upset victories have happened every so often. Erik Jones has just two career wins, with one coming in the 2019 Southern 500. Regan Smith famously won his first and only race at Darlington back in 2011. Even dating back a few decades, Lake Speed nabbed his only career victory in the 1988 Darlington race.   Here are some of the odds for Darlington, courtesy of our partner, PointsBet:

  • Kyle Larson +320
  • Martin Truex Jr. +575
  • Denny Hamlin +625
  • Kyle Busch +625
  • Chase Elliott +1000
  • Kevin Harvick +1100
  • William Byron +1400
  • Joey Logano +1800
  • Brad Keselowski +1800
  • Alex Bowman +2000
  • Ryan Blaney +2500
  • Christopher Bell +3300
  • Kurt Busch +4000
  • Tyler Reddick +4000
  • Austin Dillon +8000
  • Matt DiBenedetto +8000
  • Aric Almirola +10000
  • Ross Chastain +12500
  • Erik Jones +25000
  • Bubba Wallace +30000
  • Ryan Newman +30000
  • Michael McDowell +50000

Editor's note: All odds are provided by our partner, PointsBet. PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links.

What is the weather for Darlington?

The Weather Channel is expecting a beautiful weekend in Darlington, S.C. A high of 88 degrees, partly cloudy skies and a 1% chance of rain are forecasted for Sunday afternoon. Sunday night is equally clear, with clear to partly cloudy skies, a low of 65 and a 9% chance of rain. Everything should be clear for NASCAR’s playoff opener.


How to buy tickets for Darlington

Tickets for the Cup Series race at Darlington are available on the track website right here. Information about parking, camping, scanner rentals, pre-race pit passes and tickets for the weekend are also available on the track’s website.