JGR’s Christopher Bell takes the pole at Darlington for NASCAR’s opening playoff race

DARLINGTON, S.C. (AP) — Christopher Bell will start up front for NASCAR’s opening playoff race after winning the pole for the Southern 500 on Saturday. Bell said Darlington Raceway is a place that’s hard to pass so starting up front is essential. Bell led the way as playoff drivers took the top nine spots. That did not include the two top seeds as William Byron will start 23rd and Martin Truex Jr. 31st. Bell will have Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin alongside him in the lineup. It the fourth pole of the season and third in the past eight races for Bell.