NASCAR Series Cup Playoffs Format 2023 Explained: How NASCAR Playoffs work
Here is everything you need to know about the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series playoff format, points system, and how many drivers qualify.
The 2023 NASCAR regular season is coming to an end, as only a few races are left on the schedule. With some drivers still working to clinch their playoff spots, and others trying to sneak into the playoffs, these last few races will offer nonstop action.
Where is the NASCAR 2023 championship being held?
The 2023 NASCAR Championship will take place at Phoenix Raceway, where it has been held since 2020 for the NASCAR Cup, Xfinity, and Trucks series. Located in Avondale, Ariz., this one-mile asphalt oval track has been a part of the NASCAR premier schedule since 1988.
NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Format Explained
The NASCAR playoffs span four rounds –- the Round of 16, Round of 12, Round of 8, and Championship 4. The Round of 16, Round of 12, and Round of 8 each consist of three races, while the Championship 4 is just one race.
The NASCAR Cup Series playoffs include events at Darlington Raceway (Sept. 3), Kansas Speedway (Sept. 10), and Bristol Motor Speedway (Sept. 16) during the Round of 16. The playoffs then move to Texas Motor Speedway (Sept. 24), Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 1), and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course (Oct. 8) for the Round of 12.
The round of 8 NASCAR playoff races will take place at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Oct. 15), Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 22), and Martinsville Speedway (Oct. 29). After that, the NASCAR Cup Series playoff will have its final race on Nov. 5 at Phoenix Raceway, where the 2023 NASCAR champion will be crowned.
How Drivers Qualify for the NASCAR Playoffs
During the NASCAR regular season, drivers compete in 26 races. Standings points are accumulated in several ways -- winning the pole, winning a stage, winning a race, and placement in a race. Any driver who wins a race automatically qualifies for a playoff spot. Things get interesting toward the end of the season, because drivers who have had little to no success during the year can sneak into the playoffs by winning one of the last few races.
How does the NASCAR playoff point system work?
For starters, drivers earn playoff points based on their final regular-season standings position. The driver who has the most overall points after the regular season earns an additional 15 playoff points. The driver ranked second in the standings earns 10 playoff points, third gets eight playoff points, fourth gets seven playoff points, fifth gets sixth playoff points and so on down to 10th place, which earns one playoff point.
In the playoffs, each race victory is worth five playoff points. The winner of each stage earns one playoff point.
Regular-season performance is extremely important because the drivers who finish first and second in the regular season essentially start the playoffs with points that would otherwise have to be earned via multiple playoff wins. This gives a decided advantage to the top seeds. So, while there are no bye weeks for top seeds -- as we often see in other sports -- these drivers get a big early lead based on the number of points they carry over from their regular-season success.
What happens to drivers eliminated from the NASCAR playoffs?
Unlike other professional sports, where teams that are eliminated from the playoffs go home, drivers who miss the NASCAR playoffs still get to compete in postseason races. That’s because each race requires a full complement of 36 to 40 drivers. Drivers with no shot at the title are still expected to race, and strong finishes by those outside the championship picture are rewarded with prize money as well as a pressure-free chance to prepare for the following season.
NASCAR Playoff picture in 2023
The NASCAR playoff picture for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series is still fairly wide-open, since only 12 of the 16 drivers currently holding playoff spots have individual race victories this season. While the four other drivers have accrued a lot of points during the regular season, they can all still be eliminated from playoff contention if drivers currently outside of the current top 16 win each of the final four regular-season races.
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