The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs kick off this weekend with the Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. This will be the second time this season that the series has raced at Darlington, with Martin Truex, Jr. absolutely dominating the first event. This weekend’s race will be 100 miles longer than the first race this season, and also be at night, so those are two differences to keep in mind. Also, Darlington got a little bit of a repave in turn two a couple of weeks ago, and that could affect the teams a bit with an expected twist.

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How the algorithm works: There are quite a few statistics that go into the Power Index formula, including recent performance both overall and at this week’s track specifically, similar track performance, projected strength of the car, practice speeds (when applicable), starting position, and a few other variables.

Before We Get To The Algorithm Results…Thoughts On A Couple Drivers

Kyle Busch victory lane after Busch Clash at Daytona Road Course 2021
Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Kyle Busch – It was actually a bit surprising to me that the algorithm has Kyle Busch outside of the top 5 for Sunday night’s race. It’s not by much (he’s just 0.24 points down from Chase Elliott in the Power Index), but still… Rowdy is a previous winner here at “The Lady in Black” (back in 2008) and has finished inside the top 3 in four of the last seven races here, including a 3rd-place finish in the first Darlington race this season. Busch hasn’t been good at all in the 750hp package this season, but on high wear tracks in 2021, he has the 2nd-best average finish and 4th-best average running position.

Christopher Bell – CBell’s track record at Darlington raceway is lackluster to say the least–average finish of 20.8, best result of 11th–but he has legitimate top 10, and maybe even top 5 potential here on Sunday night. Remember, Christopher Bell was actually really good here in the first Darlington race of 2021 but had to pit with a few laps to go after hitting the wall (he was running 5th). Another reason the algorithm is down on him a little bit is because he’s been a mid-pack driver on high-wear tracks this season. Still, in the 750hp package in 2021, the #20 Toyota has the 9th-best average running position (11.6) and 8th-best average finish (9.4).

Cook Out Southern 500 Algorithm Predicted Finishing Order

RankDriverPower
Index
1.Larson, Kyle39.97
2.Truex, Jr., Martin38.48
3.Harvick, Kevin35.85
4.Hamlin, Denny35.64
5.Elliott, Chase33.25
6.Busch, Kyle33.01
7.Byron, William30.32
8.Bowman, Alex30.28
9.Logano, Joey28.67
10.Blaney, Ryan26.65
11.Reddick, Tyler25.94
12.Bell, Christopher24.75
13.Keselowski, Brad22.05
14.Busch, Kurt21.24
15.Dillon, Austin20.55
16.DiBenedetto, Matt15.96
17.Almirola, Aric13.65
18.Newman, Ryan10.42
19.Buescher, Chris09.87
20.Chastain, Ross03.90
21.Jones, Erik-03.94
22.Briscoe, Chase-04.75
23.Wallace, Bubba-09.44
24.Suarez, Daniel-10.76
25.Stenhouse, Jr., Ricky-14.44
26.LaJoie, Corey-23.58
27.Custer, Cole-25.37
28.McDowell, Michael-26.79
29.Preece, Ryan-26.81
30.Haley, Justin-29.01
31.Alfredo, Anthony-30.73
32.McLeod, BJ-36.03
33.Ware, Cody-36.73
34.Houff, Quin-38.07
35.Bilicki, Josh-38.39
36.Gase, Joey-38.91
37.Davison, James-39.99
As someone who has always been obsessed with numbers, Fantasy NASCAR has been the perfect fit with me. I pride myself on the quality of my analysis for each race, and am glad that I have been able to help others along the way. I've been a serious Fantasy NASCAR player for over 10 years now, and I'm just getting started.