The NASCAR regular season has ended and that means the playoffs are here! But what exactly does the postseason mean in NASCAR? How do drivers qualify? And what’s in store for NASCAR fans in terms of races? We’ve written a post with a quick breakdown of how the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs work so you can see who’s racing and plan your visit to the track!
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How do Drivers Qualify for the NASCAR Playoffs?
Each season, sixteen divers qualify for the NASCAR Playoffs, a system which has been dubbed “The Chase for the Championship.” The playoff participants are decided by driver standings, which are based on the number of points that the drivers accumulate throughout the regular season. (We won’t go into exactly how you earn points, but suffice it to say that drivers can rack up points by winning races, winning “stages” of races, and by being ranked high in the standings at the end of the regular season.)
Basically, those drivers who win a regular race as well as those who end up in the top 16 overall at the end of the season will automatically qualify for a spot in the NASCAR Playoffs. The system is the same for the Xfinity Series as well as the Camping World Truck Series.
This year, NASCAR’s regular season ended at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in September, and with that last race, the final 16 drivers of the playoffs were decided.
How do the NASCAR Playoffs Work?
For those drivers who qualify, the NASCAR Playoffs begin at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and proceed through a series of 10 races. There are three rounds, each of which ends with a cut-off race. After these cut-off races, four drivers are eliminated from the Chase for the Championship. Finally, there’s a fourth and final round that consists of one race to determine the winner.
|Race 1||Las Vegas Motor Speedway|
|Race 2||Richmond Raceway|
|Race 3 (Cut-Off)||Charlotte Motor Speedway (Road Course)|
|Race 4||Dover International Speedway|
|Race 5||Talladega Superspeedway|
|Race 6 (Cut-Off)||Kansas Speedway|
|Race 7||Martinsville Speedway|
|Race 8||Texas Motor Speedway|
|Race 9 (Cut-Off)||ISM Raceway|
|Race 10 (Championship)||Homestead-Miami Speedway|
Each driver enters the postseason with playoff points accumulated during the regular season to determine positions and standings. More playoff points are added to each driver’s totals throughout the first three rounds and reset after each round as they win more points through playoff races and stages. At each of the cut-off races, the four drivers with the lowest point totals are eliminated from the Chase, though they are allowed to continue to race.
During the fourth round, there are no bonus points involved. Everything culminates at the Homestead-Miami Speedway where the final four drivers remaining will race “straight up” for the championship title. The first driver to cross the finish line wins the whole thing. The other drivers, 5 through 16, will be racing against themselves. (Yes, there are some more complex rules surrounding the point totals and resets, but this is the general gist of how the postseason works.)
As they playoffs progress, it’s possible that some drivers will qualify for the next round based on points alone, regardless of how they perform in that elimination race. For instance, at Charlotte last week, four drivers had already clinched spots in the next round before they even revved their engines for the race.
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Which Drivers Made the Playoffs?
Those drivers who qualified for the NASCAR Playoffs by winning a regular season race are as follows: Kyle Busch (4 wins, regular season champion), Denny Hamlin (4 wins), Martin Truex Jr. (4 wins), Brad Keselowski (3 wins), Joey Logano (2 wins), Kevin Harvick (2 wins), Chase Elliott (3 wins), Alex Bowman (1 win), Kurt Busch (1 win), and Erik Jones (1 win).
Those drivers who qualified based on points without winning a race include Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, William Byron, and Aric Almirola. The final two drivers to qualify were Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman.
Who’s Still In?
We’re already a few races into the playoffs, so there are only 12 drivers left. Almirola, Newman, Jones, and Kurt Busch have all been eliminated. Chase Elliott snagged a crazy first place win at Charlotte in the cut-off race, while Alex Bowman made a dramatic run to grab second place and lock down the final berth in the Round of 12.
When do the NASCAR Playoffs Happen?
This year, the first race of the Playoffs began on September 15th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. So far, we’ve wrapped up three more races at Richmond, Charlotte, and Dover. The Playoffs will continue with a race each Sunday until the championship in Miami. The Round of 16 started this week at Dover International Speedway, and the next race goes down at Talladega Superspeedway on October 13th! Get tickets with Razorgator!
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