It’s playoff time!

The NASCAR Cup Series caps off a triple header weekend of racing at Darlington Raceway with the Southern 500.

Starting off in daylight, the drivers will go 500 miles to end the race under the lights.  The 16 playoff drivers will be looking to notch the first win in a playoff round that will end with four drivers being eliminated.

While the stands are not packed as in races past, there will be some fans in the stands for the race.

The Southern 500 is a special weekend for more than just kicking off the playoffs; it is also a throwback weekend where the teams feature special paint schemes from years past.

Jimmie Johson is in his final year of full time racing, Hendrick Motorsports drivers are all sporting throwback paint schemes saluting Johnson.

After the final race of the regular season in Daytona last week, NASCAR reset the points of the 16 playoff drivers.  Each driver received 2,000 points plus whatever playoff points they have earn for stage and race wins.

Penske racing driver Ryan Blaney was listed in the seventh position with 2,013 points; but after a violation during the pre-race inspection process, the number 12 team was penalized for having improperly mounted ballast.  A five pound ballast bag was mistakenly left in the car.  As a result of the infraction; Blaney will have to start the race from the back of the field, crew chief Todd Gordon has been ejected from the track, car owner Roger Penske was docked 10 car owner points, and most devastating Blaney was docked 10 driver points.  The loss of 10 points has dropped Blaney to 13th in the playoff standings – one spot below the cutoff line for the next round.

Chase Elliott will sit on the pole and bring the field to green with Denny Hamlin starting alongside on the front row.

The starting lineup for the Southern 500:
Chase Elliott
Denny Hamlin
William Byron
Alex Bowman
Brad Keselowski
Martin Truex Jr
Ryan Blaney – moved to the back of the field
Kevin Harvick
Clint Bowyer
Aric Almirola
Matt DiBenedetto
Austin Dillon
Joey Logano
Cole Custer
Kyle Busch
Kurt Busch
Bubba Wallace
John Hunter Nemechek
Michael McDowell
Chris Buescher
Christopher Bell
Jimmie Johnson
Brennan Poole
Tyler Reddick
Ty Dillon
Matt Kenseth
Corey LaJoie
Daniel Suarez
Ricky Stenhouse Jr
Erik Jones
Ryan Newman
Quin Houff
Timmy Hill
Ross Chastain
Ryan Preece
James Davison
JJ Yeley
Josh Bilicki
Joey Gase

During stage two of the race, Kyle Petty and Dale Jarrett will be joining Dale Earnhardt Jr in the booth to call the race and tell a few stories.

Denny Hamlin is reporting some possible issues with his car even before the race begins.

Stages one and two of the race are 115 laps each with stage three lasting 137 laps for a total of 367 laps around the mile and a third track.

NASCAR has called for a competition caution on lap 25.

Chase Elliott brings the field down for the green flag start of the race from the outside lane and goes side by side with Denny Hamlin before finally taking the lead.

Lap two the top five are Kevin Harvick, Alex Bowman, Martin Truex Jr, Denny Hamlin, and William Byron.

At race start the sun is proving to be a problem for the drivers with major glare issues.

Lap six, Chase Elliott has pulled out to a lead of over half a second on Alex Bowman;  points leader Kevin Harvick in sixth place.

Lap 10, Chase Elliott continues to lead the race with a lead of nearly a second on Alex Bowman; Martin Truex Jr, William Byron, and Denny Hamlin round out the top five.

Denny Hamlin is reporting a very loose condition; especially in turn one.

Lap 14, Chase Elliott has pulled out to a lead of nearly a second and half over Alex Bowman.

After having to start the race from the back of the field, Ryan Blaney has moved up to 21st position.

Lap 18, Chase Elliott has a lead of a second and a half on Alex Bowman; Martin Truex Jr is in third over two seconds back; William Byron and Denny Hamlin round out the top five. 

Lap 21, running the fastest laps on the track, Martin Truex Jr takes second place from Alex Bowman.

Lap 23, leader Chase Elliott has begun lapping slower traffic; there are 34 cars on the lead lap. 

Alex Bowman is reporting that he may have some splitter issues.

NASCAR puts out the yellow flag at the end of lap 25 for the competition caution.  With the tire wear drivers experience, pit road is likely to be very busy.  The teams were given 12 sets of tires for this race.

Drivers come down pit road for fresh tires…and adjustments.  Chase Elliott in the number one pit stall wins the race off of pit road.
Chase Elliott brings the field down for the green flag restart on lap 32 and goes side by side with team mate Alex Bowman before taking the lead after a push form Martin Truex Jr.

Lap 34, the top five are Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr,  Denny Hamlin, Alex Bowman, and Kevin Harvick.

Lap 37, Chase Elliott has a half second lead on Martin Truex Jr; Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, and William Byron round out the top five.  There are 34 cars on the lead lap.

Lap 42, Chase Elliott has a lead of nearly a second on Martin Truex Jr; Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, and William Byron round out the top five.

The preferred line around Darlington is up near the wall but it also causes the drivers to scrape the wall – called the Darlington stripe.

Lap 48, Chase Elliott has increased his lead on Martin Truex Jr to over a second; third place driver Denny Hamlin is over three seconds back.

Lap 51, Chase Elliott has led every lap so far and with a lead of over a second, he is dominating the race.

Lap 53, all 16 playoff drivers are now in the top 20.

Lap 55, the top five are Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, and William Byron.

Denny Hamlin reports that he continues to have some serious loose conditions; telling his crew chief that they only got about half of what they needed on the pit stop.

Lap 60, Chase Elliott has a lead of over a second on Martin Truex Jr; Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, and William Byron round out the top five.

Clint Bowyer is reporting some handling issues; he is currently in eleventh place.

Lap 65, Chase Elliott continues to lead the race with a second and a half lead on Martin Truex Jr; Denny Hamlin is in third over four seconds back.

Austin Dillon makes a trip down pit road with a possible tire issue.

With a stage length of 115 laps, the drivers cannot complete the stage on a single fuel load and will have to make a pit stop.

Lap 67, the top five are Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, and William Byron.

Lap 72, Kyle Busch brings his car down pit road with reports of the car is out of control and very loose.  Alex Bowman also brings his car down pit road with the same complaint.  Green flag pit stops have begun.

Lap 73, leader Chase Elliott brings his car down pit road and gives the lead over to Denny Hamlin.

Lap 74, Denny Hamlin brings his car down pit road and gives the lead over to Kurt Busch.

Lap 75, Kurt Busch comes down pit road; Chase Elliott retakes the lead with Martin Truex Jr in second a half second back.  Denny Hamlin, William Byron, and Jimmie Johnson round out the top five with 28 cars on the lead lap.

Lap 79, Martin Truex Jr has caught up to leader Chase Elliott but a slower car has spread out the two to a half a second.

Lap 81, Timmy Hill is off the track.

The caution flag comes out on lap 82 after Brad Keselowski hits the wall with a flat tire and cause some damage to his car.

Drivers come down pit road for service with Martin Truex Jr edging out Chase Elliott on pit road.

After staying out on the track,, Kurt Busch brings the field down for the green flag restart with Bubba Wallace alongside on the front row.

Lap 87, Martin Truex Jr takes the lead with Kurt Busch in second; Chase Elliott, Bubba Wallace and Jimmie Johnson round out the top five.

During the Choose Lane, Joey Gase ran over the box and had to restart the race from the back of the field.

On old tires, Bubba Wallace is falling back in the field.

Lap 91, Martin Truex Jr has a one second lead on Kurt Busch with Chase Elliott in third nearly a second and a half back.

Lap 94, Martin Truex Jr has increased his lead on Chase Elliott to over a second and a half; Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, and Denny Hamlin round out the top five.

Lap 100, Martin Truex Jr has pulled out to a lead of two and a half seconds on Chase Elliott; Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, and Kurt Busch round out the top five.

Lap 106, Martin Truex Jr has a three second lead on Jimmie Johnson; Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, and Kurt Busch round out the top five.

Lap 110, Martin Truex Jr has pulled out to a three second lead on Jimmie Johnson; Chase Elliott is over five seconds back in third.

There are 29 cars on the lead lap.

Jimmie Johnson is the only driver in the top 10 not in the playoffs.

Martin Truex Jr wins stage one for his third stage win of the season.

The top 10 at the end of stage one:
Martin Truex Jr
Jimmie Johnson
Chase Elliott
Denny Hamlin
Kurt Busch
Alex Bowman
Joey Logano

Drivers come down pit road for serice with Martin Truex Jr winning the race off of pit road.

Martin Truex Jr brings the field down for the green flag start of stage two and gets out in front for the lead.

Just as the drivers were coming down for the green flag, Ryan Blaney had to make an unscheduled trip down pit road with a flat tire.

Lap 124, the top five are Martin Truex Jr, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, and Joey Logano.

Kevin Harvick is reporting a very loose condition; comparing the car to being on ice skates.

Jimmie Johnson had a slow pit stop after a lug nut go stuck in the wheel.

Lap 130, Martin Truex Jr has a half second lead on Chase Elliott; Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, and Joey Logano round out the top five.

As the sun begins to set, the track is cooling and changing. The sun is no longer an issue for the drivers.

In a throwback weekend, seven tine Cup champion Jimmie Johnson merged the pain schemes of fellow seven time Cup champions Dale Earnhardt Sr and Richard Petty.

Lap 138, Martin Truex Jr has pulled out to a lead of a second and a half on Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, and Joey Logano round out the top five.

Lap 144, Martin Truex Jr has increased his lead to two and a half seconds on Chase Elliott.

Lap 147, Denny Hamlin has caught up to Chase Elliott and is trying to pass for second.

Lap 148, Martin Truex Jr has a lead of over three and a half seconds on Denny Hamlin; Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott, and Joey Logano round out the top five.

Lap 152, Kurt Busch is challenging Denny Hamlin for second but Hamlin holds him off.

With 29 cars on the lead lap, Martin Truex Jr continues to dominate the race with a lead of over three seconds.

Chase Elliott reports that something has gone wrong with the car.

Lap 157, Kevin Harvick comes down pit road for service; saying that the car is “just wicked”.

Lap 163, Martin Truex Jr holds on to his three and a half second lead on Kurt Busch; Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, and Joey Logano round out the top five.

Kyle Petty compares driving Darlington Raceway to walking on ice in winter.

Lap 169, the track is completely under the lights now that the sun has set.

Lap 170, Martin Truex Jr has pulled out to a lead of over four and a half seconds on Kurt Busch; Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, and Joey Logano round out the top five.

Matt DiBenedetto and Alex Bowman make their pit stops as green flag pit stops begin.  DiBenedetto reports that his car is very loose.

Leader Martin Truex Jr makes his pit stop and gives the lead over to Kurt Busch.

Drivers are reporting that their tires are “gone’.

Kurt Busch makes his pit stop and gives the lead over to Kevin Harvick.

Kevin Harvick had pitted several laps earlier and will have to make an additional trip down pit road before the end of the stage.

Lap 177, the top five are Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr, Jimmie Johnson, Alex Bowman, and Kurt Busch.

When Kevin Harvick took the lead, he was over eight seconds in front of Martin Truex Jr; on lap 178, his lead is down to just six seconds.

The caution flag comes out on lap 179 when Bubba Wallace spins out.  Dale Earnhardt Jr said that is sounded like Bubba had hit the clutch and not the brake.  Bubba reports that he thought the car jumped out of gear.

Drivers come down pit road for service.

Kevin Harvick is reporting that the car is still way too loose.

Martin Truex Jr wins the race off of pit road with Kevin Harvick coming out second.

Cole Custer was caught speeding on pit road.

Martin Truex Jr brings the field down for the green flag restart on lap 185 with Denny Hamlin alongside on the front row.  Denny Hamlin gets out in front for the lead initially, but Martin Truex Jr passes Hamlin and jumps out in front.

Lapa 187, the top five are Martin Truex Jr, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, and Alex Bowman.

Lap 192, Martin Truex Jr has a half second lead on Kevin Harvick; Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, and Alex Bowman round out the top five.

Lap 196, there are 30 cars on the lead lap with only one driver off the track.

Martin Truex Jr holds on to a half second lead on Kevin Harvick; Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, and Alex Bowman round out the top five.

James Davison is out of the race.

Lap 200, Martin Truex Jr leads the race, but is less than a second out in front of Kevin Harvick; Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, and Alex Bowman round out the top five.

Joey Logano is reporting some kind of a vibration; his team reports that all of the lug nuts are tight.

Lap 204, Martin Truex Jr has increased his lead to over a second on Kevin Harvick; Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, and Alex Bowman round out the top five.

Lap 209, Martin Truex Jr is beginning to pull away, he now has a lead of two and a half seconds on Kevin Harvick.

While several of the drivers have been reporting very loose conditions, Kyle Busch reports a tight condition.

Lap 214, Martin Truex Jr’s lead is now over three seconds on Kevin Harvick; Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, and Alex Bowman round out the top five.

There are 28 cars on the lead lap.  Bubba Wallace is off the track.

Lap 218, Martin Truex Jr continues to increase his lead on Kevin Harvick; which is now over four seconds.

Denny Hamlin has passed Kevin Harvick for second and has his sights on team mate Martin Truex Jr who has a four second lead on Hamlin.

Eight laps remain in stage two, there are just 25 cars on the lead lap.  Truex has increased his lead to four and a half seconds on Denny Hamlin; Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, and Alex Bowman round out the top five.

Four laps remain in stage two, Martin Truex Jr has a five second lead on Denny Hamlin.

Martin Truex Jr wins stage two to sweep the stages.

The top 10 at the end of stage two:
Martin Truex Jr
Denny Hamlin
Kevin Harvick
Alex Bowman
Jimmie Johnson
Kyle Busch
Erik Jones
Austin Dillon
Clint Bowyer
Kurt Busch

Drivers come down pit road for service with Denny Hamlin winning the race off of pit road; Martin Truex Jr comes out second.

Denny Hamlin brings the field down for the green flag start of stage three and edges out Alex Bowman for the lead.  Corey LaJoie had some sort of issue on the restart and has to work his way to pit road.

Lap 237,Denny Hamlin leads the race with Martin Truex Jr in second; Kevin Harvick, Alex Bowman, and Erik Jones round out the top five.

Lap 242, Denny Hamlin is in the lead with Martin Truex Jr on his bumper.  Joey Logano has some damage to the back of his cr.

On a replay, Logano’s damage came from Corey LaJoie’s car on the restart.

Lap 245, the caution flag comes out for John Hunter Nemechek hits the wall.  John Hunter Nemechek takes his car to the garage.

Matt DiBenedetto is the “lucky dog”.

Drivers come down pit road for fresh tires with Martin Truex Jr coming out first and Denny Hamlin out second.  Kyle Busch comes off of pit road third.

Martin Truex Jr brings the field down for the green flag restart on lap 251 with Kyle Busch alongside on the front row.  Truex jumps out in front for the lead with Kyle Busch in second.

Kyle Busch comes up from the inside to challenge Truex but Truex holds him off.  After a battle with Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch takes second.

Lap 253, the top five are Martin Truex Jr, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, and Kurt Busch.

Kyle Busch reported a radio issue, someone at the track had a radio on the same frequency in the open position.

Lap 260, Martin Truex Jr has just a half second lead on Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, and Kurt Busch round out the top five.

There are 26 cars on the lead lap; Christopher Bell is off the track.  John Hunter Nemechek and Corey LaJoie are out of the race.

Lap 264, Martin Truex Jr has pulled out to a one second lead on Kyle Busch; Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, and Kurt Busch round out the top five.

Clint Bowyer is reporting some voltage issue, the voltage is blinking low.  Currently Bowyer is in sixth place.

One hundred to go, Martin Truex Jr is dominating the race with a lead of over a second on Kyle Busch; Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, and Kurt Busch round out the top five.

Lap  273, Martin Truex Jr has a two second lead on team mate Kyle Busch; Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, and Kurt Busch round out the top five.

Lap 281, Kyle Busch has closed the gap on leader Martin Truex Jr to a second and a half; Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, and Kurt Busch round out the top five.

Lap 284, Jimmie Johnson comes down pit road for a green flag pit stop.  Austin Dillon also makes a pit stop.  Taking tire wear in consideration, some of the drivers are dividing stage three into thirds instead of half to take advantage of fresh tires and the time they can gain on the track.

Lap 288, Martin Truex Jr has a two and a half second lead on Kyle Busch; Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, and Clint Bowyer round out the top five.

Lap 291, Martin Truex Jr has increased his lead on Kyle Busch to over three seconds.

Lap 294, there are only eight cars on the lead lap – the same eight drivers who have yet to make a pit stop.

Lap 297, Martin Truex Jr got slideways on the track, but saved the car and the track stayed green.

On fresh tires, Kevin Harvick – the first car a lap down – is running times two seconds faster that the drivers on old tires.

Lap 298, Kyle Busch is two seconds behind leader Martin Truex Jr.

Clint Bowyer had to pit a few laps sooner than planned with a tire coming apart.

Lap 305, Kyle Busch has closed the gap on leader Martin Truex Jr to under two seconds.

More drivers are making green flag pit stops.

Leader Martin Truex Jr makes his pit stop; as well as, second place driver Kyle Busch; Denny Hamlin is the new leader.

Denny Hamlin is having trouble getting to pit road.

Kevin Harvick is the new leader with Chase Elliott in second a second back.

Finally getting down pit road, Denny Hamlin reports that he gets looser the longer he runs.

With 55 laps remaining in the race, Kevin Harvick leads the race; Chase Elliott, Erik Jones, Austin Dillon, and Aric Almirola round out the top five with 18 cars on the lead lap.  Denny Hamlin is the first car one lap down.

Forty eight to go, Chase Elliott passes Kevin Harvic for the lead.

The seventh caution flag of the night comes out with 47 laps to go for debris on the track – some sheet metal is flying around.

Drivers come down pit road for service with Chase Elliott coming out of pit road first with Kevin Harvick a half a car behind.

Chase Elliott brings the field down for the green flag restart with Martin Truex Jr alongside on the front row with 41 laps remaining in the race.  Chase Elliott takes the lead with Kevin Harvick in second.

Martin Truex Jr takes second place from Kevin Harvick.

The top five are Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr, Kevin Harvick, Austin Dillon, and Joey Logano.

Erik Jones is in sixth place, he is the only driver in the top 15 not in the playoffs.

There are 22 cars on the lead lap with 35 laps to go.

Chase Elliott has pulled out to a lead of over half a second on Martin Truex Jr; Kevin Harvick, Austin Dillon, and Joey Logano round out the top five.

Lap 340,Chase Elliott has a lead of half a second on Martin Truex Jr; Kevin Harvick, Austin Dillon, and Joey Logano round out the top five.

Twenty to go, Chase Elliott holds on to the lead with Martin Truex Jr close behind; Kevin Harvick, Austin Dillon and Joey Logano round out the top five.

With 16 laps to go, Martin Truex Jr has caught up to leader Chase Elliott.

Fifteen to go, Martin Truex Jr takes the lead but both drivers hit the wall rather hard.  Truex was not completely clear when he went in front of Elliott and sent both of them into the wall.

Martin Truex Jr and Chase Elliott both report possible tire issues.

Martin Truex Jr comes down pit road with a flat tire.

Kevin Harvick passes Chase Elliott for the lead as Chase Elliott begins to fall through the field.

Ten to go, Kevin Harvick has a half second lead on Austin Dillon; Joey Logano, Erik Jones, and William Byron round out the top five with 21 cars on the lead lap.

Chase Elliott has fallen to tenth place.

Harvick encounters slower traffic with eight laps to go.

Seven to go, Kevin Harvick has a half second lead on Austin Dillon; Joey Logano, Erik Jones, and William Byron round out the top five.

Six to go, Kevin Harvick has pulled out to a second lead on Austin Dillon.

Four to go, Kevin Harvick has a one second lead on Austin Dillon.

Two to go, Kevin Harvick continues to lead the race with Austin Dillon in second as they again encounter slower traffic.

Kevin Harvick takes the white flag!

Kevin Harvick wins the first race in the playoffs and notches his eighth win of the season.  Kevin Harvick moves into ninth place on the all time winners list with 57.

Harvick welcomed the fans back to the track; adding that it was a lot more fun with the fans in the stands.

The unofficial results of the Southern 500:
Kevin Harvick
Austin Dillon
Joey Logano
Erik Jones
William Byron
Alex Bowman
Kyle Busch
Kurt Busch
Aric Almirola
Clint Bowyer
Brad Keselowski
Cole Custer
Denny Hamlin
Matt Kenseth
Ryan Newman
Michael McDowell
Ryan Preece
Jimmie Johnson
Ricky Stenhouse Jr
Chase Elliott
Matt DiBenedetto
Martin Truex Jr
Tyler Reddick
Ryan Blaney
Daniel Suarez
Chris Buescher
Ty Dillon
Brennan Poole
Ross Chastain
JJ Yeley
Quin Houff
Josh Bilicki
Joey Gase
Christopher Bell
Timmy Hill
John Hunter Nemechek
Corey LaJoie
Bubba Wallace
James Davison