The NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs are a series of ten races that culminate with the championship to end the season. The races are split up into four rounds, with fewer drivers advancing to each round. Read on to learn more about the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, including qualification, the points system, and the different rounds.
To qualify for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, the first requirement is that the driver finished in the top 30 in the driver points standings. Driver points are given out after every regular season race. Sixteen drivers qualify for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.
One way to qualify is by winning a race in the regular season. If a driver wins a race in the regular season, they are almost guaranteed a spot in the playoffs. However, if there are more than 16 race-winners in a season, a win does not guarantee a spot in the playoffs. In this scenario, the 16 race-winners highest in the driver points standings will make the playoffs.
If there are fewer than 16 race-winners in the regular season, all race-winners will make the playoffs. The remaining spots in the playoffs will be filled by the highest driver-points-earning drivers without a regular-season win.
Each regular-season race has 40 drivers that participate, and driver points are awarded in reverse order based on their finishing positions. This means that the winning driver receives 40 points, the second placed driver receives 35 points, third place gets 34 points, and so on at a decreasing rate until the drivers who finish in 36th-40th place each receive one point for that race. Drivers also receive driver points for finishing in the top ten in the first and second stages of a race. For the first two stages, drivers who win a stage get 10 points, with the points going in reverse order for the top 10.
Once the playoffs begin, the points are reset for the 16 playoff drivers, who now earn playoff points. The playoff points are again reset after each round where four drivers get eliminated.
Playoff points can also be earned during the regular season for winning a stage or race or by having the most points at the end of the season.
The NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs are split into four separate rounds. Read below to learn about the different rounds, including the races that are a part of each round and the number of competitors involved.
Round of 16
The Round of 16 is the first round of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. As the name implies, the top 16 points-earning drivers from the NASCAR Cup Series season qualify for the Round of 16. The Round of 16 consists of three races:
- Cookout Southern 500
- Hollywood Casino 400
- Bass Pro Shops Night Race
Round of 12
After the Bass Pro Shops Night Race, the 12 drivers with the most points in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs move on to the Round of 12. The Round of 12 consists of three races:
- AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 500
- YellaWood 500
- Bank of America ROVAL 400
Round of 8
Following the Bank of America ROVAL 400, the top eight points-earning drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs move on to the Round of 8. The Round of 8 is the last round before the NASCAR Cup Series Championship race. The Round of 8 consists of three races:
- South Point 400
- Dixie Vodka 400
- Xfinity 500
The top four points-earning drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs advance to the Championship 4. The Championship 4 is the final round of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. It consists of only one race, the NASCAR Cup Series Championship. The winner of the NASCAR Cup Series Championship is crowned the champion of the NASCAR Cup Series season.
List of Playoff Events
|Cook Out Southern 500||Darlington, SC||Darlington Raceway||Round of 16|
|Hollywood Casino 400||Kansas City, KS||Kansas Motor Speedway||Round of 16|
|Bass Pro Shops Night Race||Bristol, TN||Bristol Motor Speedway||Round of 16|
|AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 500||Fort Worth, TX||Texas Motor Speedway||Round of 12|
|YellaWood 500||Talladega, AL||Talladega Superspeedway||Round of 12|
|Bank of America ROVAL 400||Concord, NC||Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course||Round of 12|
|South Point 400||Las Vegas, Nv||Las Vegas Motor Speedway||Round of 8|
|Dixie Vodka 400||Homestead, FL||Homestead-Miami Speedway||Round of 8|
|Xfinity 500||Martinsville, VA||Martinsville Speedway||Round of 8|
|NASCAR Cup Series Championship||Avondale, AZ||Phoenix Raceway||Championship 4|
How many drivers qualify for the playoffs?
16 drivers qualify for the playoffs, and the rounds are split into three races each. After the first three playoff races, the number of playoff drivers is whittled down to 12. After races four through six, the number of playoff drivers then drops to eight. After races seven to nine, the number of playoff drivers remaining is only four. The drivers are eliminated based on their number of playoff points.
What is the championship four?
The playoffs culminate in the tenth and final race: the NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway. At this race, only four championship drivers remain eligible to win the championship. These four drivers are known as the “Championship Four.” The Championship Four participate in the final race, alongside 36 other competitors who are eligible to win the race, but not the championship. The first of the Championship Four drivers to cross the finish line is crowned the NASCAR Cup Series champion.