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NASCAR playoffs

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The NASCAR playoffs is a championship playoff system used in NASCAR's three national series. The system was founded as 'The Chase for the Championship'[1] on January 21, 2004, and was used exclusively in the NASCAR Cup Series from 2004 to 2015. Since 2016, NASCAR has also used the playoff system in the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series.

The NASCAR Cup Series version of the playoff system is often called the Chase for the Cup,[2] and includes sixteen drivers that compete for the championship in the final ten races of the Cup Series. The first nine races are divided into three rounds, with four participants being eliminated after each round. The Xfinity Series Chase format is competed over seven races with twelve drivers. The Truck Series Chase also is seven races long, but only includes eight drivers.

On January 23, 2017, NASCAR announced that they would not be using the word "Chase", instead using the word "Playoffs."[3]

Origins of the playoffs

The publicly stated purpose for the NASCAR playoff system was to make the NASCAR mid-season more competitive, and increase fan interest and television ratings. The timing coincides with the commencement of the college and National Football League seasons and the final month of Major League Baseball's regular season and Major League Baseball's Playoffs. Prior to this format, the Cup champion was sometimes determined mathematically prior to the season finale; a situation that existed in the lower-tier series, the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series, until they received their own playoff formats in 2016.

By resetting and compressing the scoring of the top 10 (later 12, then 16) drivers, the chances of each of those drivers winning the championship was increased, while not precluding anyone with a legitimate chance of winning. The original choice of top 10 drivers was based on the historical analysis that no driver outside the top 10, with 10 races remaining in the season, had ever gone on to win the Championship.[1] The expansion to top 16 in 2014 made the elimination rounds possible.

Short track racing, the grassroots of NASCAR, began experimenting with ideas to help the entry-level racer. In 2001, the United Speed Alliance Racing organization, sanctioning body of the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series, a short-track stock car touring series, devised a five-race system where the top teams in their Hooters ProCup North and Hooters ProCup South divisions would participate in a five-race playoff, the Four Champions, named for the four Hooters Racing staff members (including 1992 NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion and pilot Alan Kulwicki) killed in an April 1, 1993 plane crash in Blountville, Tennessee. The system organized the teams with starting points based on the team's performance in their division (division champions earn a bonus), and the teams would participate in a five-race playoff. The five races, added to the team's seeding points, would determine the winner. The 2001 version was four races, as one was canceled because of the September 11 terrorist attacks, however, NASCAR watched as the ProCup's Four Champions became a success and drivers from the series began looking at NASCAR rides. The idea was to give NASCAR, which was becoming in many areas the fourth-largest sport (after Major League Baseball, the NFL, the NBA and surpassing in some regions the NHL) attention during baseball's road to the World Series and the outset of the pro and college football, NHL and NBA seasons.

"The Matt Kenseth rule"

The playoff system has been referred to as "the Matt Kenseth Rule" as a result of Kenseth's championship in 2003, the year prior to NASCAR adopting the playoff system. In 2003, Kenseth won the championship with just one race win (the third race of the year, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway) along with 25 top-ten finishes. Ryan Newman won eight races that year (22% of the 36 races run in 2003), but failed to finish several races due to crashes and ended the season sixth in the driver's championship. NASCAR indicated that the 2003 championship outcome was not the driving factor in establishing the playoffs, as they had been considering adjustments to the points system to put more emphasis on winning races since 2000. "The Matt Kenseth Rule" more properly refers to the NASCAR numerical scoring system that was also implemented for the 2004 season, which increased the points awarded to race winners, thus emphasizing winning more and consistency less than in previous years. However, the coincidence of new playoff system in 2004 and Kenseth's 2003 championship led to the issues being linked, including by NASCAR officials in interviews and press releases.

Cup Series

The playoffs system was announced on January 21, 2004 as the "Chase for the Championship", and first used during the 2004 Nextel Cup season. The format used from 2004 to 2006 was modified slightly starting with the 2007 season. A major change to the qualifying criteria was instituted in 2011, along with a major change to the points system. Even more radical changes to the qualifying criteria, and to the format of the playoffs itself, were announced for the upcoming 2014 Sprint Cup Series. As of 2014, the 10-race playoff format involves 16 drivers chosen primarily on wins during the "regular season,” if fewer than 16 drivers win races during the regular season, the remaining field is filled on the basis of regular season points. These drivers compete against each other while racing in the standard field of 40 cars. The driver with the most points after the final 10 races is declared the champion.

Beginning with the 2008 Sprint Cup Series, the playoffs became known by its new name as a result of the merger of Nextel Communications with Sprint Corporation. From 2004 to 2006 some races aired on TNT, with the rest airing on NBC. From 2007 to 2009 all 10 races aired on ABC, but in 2010 NASCAR and ESPN quietly moved 9 of the 10 races to ESPN. In 2015 coverage returned to NBC with some races airing on NBCSN.

Seeding and scoring history

The current version of the playoff system was announced by NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France on January 23, 2017.[4] The current format is the fifth since it was introduced for the 2004 season, with significant changes made in both 2007 and 2011.[5] The 2017 change is the 15th time since 1949 that the point system had been changed,[1] these latest changes affect both the race format and the playoff seeding.


Starting in the 2004 season, after the first 26 races of the season, all drivers in the Top 10 and any others within 400 points of the leader will earn a berth in the Chase. All drivers in the Chase will have their point total adjusted. The first-place driver in the standings begins the chase with 5,050 points, the second-place driver starts with 5,045, etc. Incremental five-point drops continue through the list of title contenders.


In 2007, NASCAR expanded the field of contenders to the top 12 drivers in the points standings after the first 26 races. Each drivers' point total reset to 5,000 points, with a ten-point bonus for each race won. The provision letting all drivers within 400 points of the leader was dropped. Brian France explained why NASCAR made the changes to the chase:

"The adjustments taken [Monday] put a greater emphasis on winning races. Winning is what this sport is all about. Nobody likes to see drivers content to finish in the top 10. We want our sport – especially during the Chase – to be more about winning."


The Chase format was again modified for the 2011 season, as was the point system for winnings. After 26 "regular season" races, the top 10 drivers, as determined by points accumulated during the season, automatically advance to contend for the Cup championship. These drivers are joined by two "wild card" qualifiers, specifically the two drivers ranked from 11th through 20th in drivers' points who have the most regular-season race wins. The 12 drivers' championship points are reset to a base of 2,000 per driver. Each of the 10 automatic qualifiers receives a bonus of 3 points for each win during the regular season, while the two wild card qualifiers receive no bonus. Normal scoring applies during the Chase, with race winners earning 43 base points plus 3 bonus points, all drivers who lead a lap earning 1 bonus point, and the driver who leads the most laps earning 1 bonus point in addition to any other points earned.[6]

As in all previous Chases, the driver with the highest point total at the conclusion of the 10-race Chase was the NASCAR Cup Series champion.

The Chase field consisted of 12 drivers from 2007 through 2012. An exception to this rule was in 2013, where the Chase field was expanded to 13 drivers for that season only as the result of the match fixing scandal. With seven laps remaining in the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway, Clint Bowyer went into a spin, forcing a caution. After the race, rumors abounded that Bowyer had deliberately forced a caution in an attempt to manipulate the finish of the race so as to help his Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR) teammate Martin Truex Jr. clinch the second of the two Wild Card spots (Kasey Kahne had already clinched the first spot) over Ryan Newman, who had been leading at the moment of caution. That Bowyer's spin had been deliberate had been further suggested by several things: the first was radio communications on Brian Vickers' team with his spotter, MWR general manager Ty Norris, telling him to pit under green on the restart, and that the audio on Bowyer's radio showed crew chief Brian Pattie pointing out Newman taking the lead and then asking a suspicious string of questions mere seconds before Bowyer spun. Furthermore, when interviewed by Dr. Jerry Punch post-race, Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was directly behind Bowyer, said that Bowyer "just spun out. It was the craziest thing I saw," and that the behavior of Bowyer's car was inconsistent with Bowyer's claim that a right front tire blew out (the popping noise associated with a flat tire was not heard until after the spin). Vickers' pitting on the restart forced Newman to the back of the pitting cycle, costing him several positions. He ended up finishing third to Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch. By finishing third, Newman was tied with Truex in both wins (one) and final points for the second Wildcard spot. Truex won the tiebreaker on top-five finishes.

The following Monday, September 9, NASCAR issued some of the most severe penalties imposed on a team in NASCAR Cup Series history. MWR was placed on probation for the rest of the season, and Norris was suspended indefinitely. All three MWR teams were docked 50 owner/driver points for "actions detrimental to stock car racing." As this penalty was applied to pre-Chase point totals, it knocked Truex out of the Wildcard spot and put Newman in his place. NASCAR was unable to find solid evidence that Bowyer's spin was deliberate, but did determine that Norris's order to have Vickers pit was a deliberate attempt to manipulate the Chase standings in Truex's favor. Had the ruse not happened, Newman was on point to win the race, automatically becoming the second wild card and bumping Truex.

The ruse also resulted in a second controversy when radio transmissions were discovered suggesting that Front Row Motorsports and Penske Racing had struck a deal for David Gilliland to give up a spot on the track for Joey Logano, allowing Logano to race his way into the final lock-in position by one point over Jeff Gordon. A second NASCAR inquiry resulted in both teams being placed on probation for the remainder of the year. This ruse was found to have been directly caused by the pace car. Had the pace car situation for Bowyer's intentional spin not occurred, Gordon would have finished ahead of Logano by one point and Logano would have been bumped by Newman winning the race since Newman would have taken the first Wild Card. Although Logano was allowed to keep his Chase berth, the field was expanded to 13 with the addition of Gordon on September 13. NASCAR chairman Brian France has always had the power to expand the Chase field in exceptional circumstances, and decided to invoke it in this case. In France's view, Gordon had been put at an "unfair disadvantage" due to Penske and Front Row's collusion, as well as MWR's improper instructions to have Vickers pit. Had this not happened, France said, Gordon would have been in the Chase by taking the last lock-in position, while Logano would have received one Wild Card position due to him being ahead of Truex and Newman in points, and Kasey Kahne would have taken the other Wild Card regardless of the race outcome as he had two wins entering Richmond.[7]


On January 30, 2014, a new Chase system resembling the playoff systems used in other major league sports was announced at Media Day.[8]

Under the new system, the Chase field is expanded to 16 drivers for the 10-race Chase. The 16 drivers are chosen primarily on wins during the "regular season", if fewer than 16 drivers win races, the remaining field is filled on the basis of regular season points. These drivers compete against each other while racing in the standard field of 43 cars. The driver with the most points after the final 10 races is declared the champion.

The new playoff system institutes three "cuts" where drivers are eliminated from title contention as the Chase progresses. In each cut the bottom four drivers are eliminated from title contention after the third race after a cut. After the first cut (Dover) in what was called the "Challenger Round", the field was reduced to 12. The bottom four winless drivers kept their points after the first cut, while the remaining 12 Chase drivers' points are reset to 3,000 points. After three more races, the cut line eliminates the bottom four winless drivers after the sixth Chase race (Talladega) in the "Contender Round", reducing the size of the field another 33%. Drivers who miss the second cut have their points reset to their score at the end of the first cut, plus the combined points accumulated in the three races in the "Contender Round." Those who continue have their points all reset to 4,000. Then the "Eliminator Round" involves axing 50% of the Chase grid with the final cut, cutting the new bottom four drivers after the penultimate race at Phoenix, leaving the top four drivers to have their point totals reset to 5,000 so that they are tied for the final race at Homestead-Miami for the title run. The drivers who miss the cut after this round have their score reset to the score at the end of the first cut, plus total points accumulated in the six previous races. Of these four drivers who make this cut, the driver with the best absolute finish (no bonus points are involved) at Homestead is then crowned the season champion.[9]

Under this system, any Chase driver who wins a race during a playoff round is automatically guaranteed a spot in the next round. Up to three drivers thus can advance to the next round of the Chase through race wins, regardless of their actual points position after the final (third) race in that round. The remaining drivers to advance is determined by points.

The round names were removed starting in 2016, being changed to "Round of 16,” "Round of 12,” "Round of 8,” and "Championship 4."[10]

To identify the drivers within the 43-car field that are still involved in each round of the Chase, NASCAR designated various cosmetic changes in 2014: for these drivers, their cars' roof numbers, windshield header, front splitters, and fascia are colored yellow, and the Chase logo appears on the front quarter panel.[11]


The previous championship format, renamed NASCAR Playoffs,[12] was maintained for the 2017 season, but with changes. A revised regular-season points system will be adopted, splitting races into three stages. Stages 1 and 2 are roughly 1/4 of the laps each, and stage 3 is about the last 1/2 of the race, except for the Coca-Cola 600 which is split into 4 equal lengths. The top 10 drivers at the end of the first two stages each race will earn additional bonus points towards the championship, 10 points for the first place car down to 1 point for the 10th place car. At the end of the race, the normal championship point scheme will be used to award points to the entire field. Additionally, "playoff points" will be awarded during the regular season for winning stages, winning races, and finishing the regular season in the top 16 on the championship points standings. 1 playoff point for the winner of a stage, 5 playoff points plus an automatic berth into the round of 16 for the race winner. (unless there are more than 16 race winners in the season, then the top 16 in race wins move on). Also, more bonus points for Top-10 in points standings at the end of the regular season: 1st place in regular season points earns 15 playoff bonus points in addition to the points earned with race or stage wins; 2nd place earns 10 playoff points, 3rd place: 8, 4th place: 7, 5th place: 6, 6th place: 5, 7th place: 4, 8th place: 3, 9th place: 2, and 10th place: 1. Playoff points are also awarded in each playoff race, except the final race, for those drivers still competing for the championship, for winning stages and winning races. If a driver qualifies for the championship, these playoff points will be added into their point totals after the resets for the first 3 rounds (Round of 16, Round of 12, Round of 8). For the Round of 4, (final race) there are no bonus points involved and the highest finishing driver of the 4 is declared the champion.[13][14][12] This means a driver can have less regular season points than another driver, but be seeded higher due to more wins.

The Kevin Harvick Rule – Fifth Place

Adopted from 2014 onwards, on the suggestion of driver Kevin Harvick, fifth place in the season-ending standings will be determined amongst the Chase drivers eliminated in each of the Chase rounds during the final races.

First Round Elimination

Drivers eliminated in the first round will retain their Chase score (for example, a driver with one win during the season eliminated after scoring 75 points during the first round will score 2,080 points) and start the fourth race the same score after the first three races, and will accumulate points for the remainder of the season.[15]

Missed the Second or Third Cut

Drivers eliminated in the second or third round will have their score reverted to the score at the end of the first round, then their individual race scores for the three (eliminated in the second round) or six races (eliminated in the third round), respectively, before their elimination from the championship contention will be combined with the score after the third race of the first round for the driver's total score.

For the Final Race

After ten races, the drivers positions 5–16 will be determined by the total number of points accumulated in the ten races (bonus points will apply), without the points resets of the second or third rounds, added to the driver's base Chase score with bonuses added. In the final race, unlike the four championship contenders who cannot score bonus points (the winner is determined by the driver who finished the best of those four), both non-playoff and playoff drivers eliminated from the championship are eligible to score all bonus points, so drivers who are contending for positions 5-16 will compete solely against each other.


The previous championship format is maintained, but a few changes were added to the design touches on the cars involved in the playoffs. Starting with the 2018 season, NASCAR collaborated with the Race Team Alliance and Twitter to unveil customized hashtags and emojis for the top 16 drivers entering the playoffs. Each driver will have their hashtag and emoji displayed on the sides of their cars until they are eliminated from contention. Non-playoff drivers can have their hashtags and the Twitter logo displayed on their cars.[16] This was in effect until the fall Kansas race. From the fall Martinsville race to the fall Phoenix race, all hashtag and emoji labels were replaced with the NBC logo. At the season-ending Homestead race, all cars will sport Snapcodes as part of a partnership with Snapchat.[17]

Cup Series tracks

The following are the ten race tracks at which the final ten NASCAR Cup Series races for the Championship. Texas Motor Speedway (Fort Worth, Texas) was added in 2005 as a result of the outcome of the Ferko lawsuit which eliminated Darlington Raceway (Darlington, South Carolina) by NASCAR. Also, by way of a 3-way track change, Talladega Superspeedway moved to a later date, Atlanta Motor Speedway moved to the Labor Day weekend date, and Auto Club Speedway moved to a later date inside the Chase (starting 2009).[18]

In 2011, as part of a substantial schedule realignment, a number of further changes occurred in the Chase:[19]

In 2012:

  • Talladega and Kansas swapped dates.

In 2013:

  • Talladega and Kansas swapped the dates back.

In 2015:

In 2017:

  • Talladega and Kansas swapped dates again.

In 2018, as part of a substantial schedule realignment, a number of further changes occurred in the Playoffs:

  • New Hampshire lost its playoff date. Las Vegas replaces New Hampshire as the Playoff opener.[20]
  • Chicagoland race removed from the playoffs; moved back to July.
  • Richmond was the second race in the Playoffs.
  • Charlotte race moved one week earlier and held for the first time in the infield road-course (the first playoff race on a road course).
  • Dover race moved one week later, replacing the Charlotte race and becoming the first race in the second round.

In 2020, as part of a substantial schedule realignment:

  • Miami no longer hosts the final race of the season as the race date was moved to late March, ending a tradition dating back to 2002, the final race of the season is now held in Phoenix.
  • Dover race removed from the playoffs; moved to late August.
  • Darlington became the host of the playoff opener, the Las Vegas race became the first race of the second round.
  • Bristol Motor Speedway hosted a race in the playoffs for the first time, as the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race (which serves as the last race of the first round) moved from late August to mid-September.
  • Charlotte race was moved two weeks back, becoming the last race of the second round.
  • Martinsville race was moved two weeks back, becoming the last race of the third round.
Track City 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
Darlington Raceway Darlington, SC 9 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 1
Richmond International Raceway Richmond, VA N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 2 2 2
Bristol Motor Speedway Bristol, TN N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 3
Las Vegas Motor Speedway Las Vegas, NV N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 1 1 4
Talladega Superspeedway Talladega, AL 3 3 4 4 4 7 7 6 4 6 6 6 6 5 5 5 5
Charlotte Motor Speedway Concord, NC 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 4 4 4 3 3 6
Kansas Speedway Kansas City, KS 4 4 3 3 3 3 3 4 6 4 4 5 5 6 6 6 7
Texas Motor Speedway Fort Worth, TX N/A 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8
Martinsville Speedway Ridgeway, VA 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 9
Phoenix Raceway Avondale, AZ 8 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 10
Atlanta Motor Speedway Hampton, GA 7 7 7 7 7 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Auto Club Speedway Fontana, CA N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 4 4 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Chicagoland Speedway Joliet, IL N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 N/A N/A N/A
Dover International Speedway Dover, DE 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 4 4 N/A
Homestead-Miami Speedway Homestead, FL 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 N/A
New Hampshire Motor Speedway Loudon, NH 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 N/A N/A N/A
  • The North Carolina track was known as Lowe's Motor Speedway from 1999 to 2009. After the 2009 season, Lowe's chose not to renew its sponsorship contract, causing the track to revert to its original name of Charlotte Motor Speedway.
  • The Kevin Harvick rule applies in both eliminations. Eliminated drivers' scores in the first round will continue to accumulate, while drivers eliminated in the second round will have their scores reverted to the end of the first round, in addition to all accumulated points from races in the second round, and drivers race for fifth.

Xfinity and Truck Series

On January 19, 2016, NASCAR announced the introduction of a playoff format for the Xfinity Series and the Camping World Truck Series.[21] Both series use the same elimination formula as the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, however, with some modifications (most notably, smaller fields, and only two rounds of elimination instead of three, due to both having seven races in their playoff formats compared to the ten in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs). In the Truck playoffs, there are only eight drivers eligible for the title. At both elimination races, the bottom two drivers in the playoffs standings are eliminated from contention; However, on January 21, 2020, NASCAR announced that the playoff field for the truck series would expand from eight drivers to ten drivers with the bottom two being eliminated after the round of 10 and the bottom four eliminated after the round of 8. The Xfinity playoffs has twelve drivers, and the bottom four in points are eliminated at the end of each round. The rules for fifth place continue to be the same.

Comparison Playoff Champion vs Non-Playoff Points standings

Nine different drivers have won the NASCAR Cup Series championship since the playoff system was implemented in 2004. Jimmie Johnson has the most championships under the playoff format with seven, while Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch are the only other drivers to win multiple championships since the system was introduced.

Below are the hypothetical champions based on only regular points standings after last season race if no playoff format had been implemented. This section is only to demonstrate the impact of the playoffs on the outcome of the championship in comparison to regular points standings. Given the ways that different formats change race strategy and therefore results, there is no way to know if these exact outcomes would have occurred.

  • Seven times, in 2005, 2006, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2017, and 2019, the Cup Playoff Champion would also be the champion based on regular points standings.
  • In three times, in 2005, 2017, and 2019, the Cup Playoff champion leads the points standings before the start of the playoffs.
  • Only in two cases, in 2015 and 2016, the Cup Playoff champion wouldn't be in the Top 5 of the regular points standings.
Year and Championship Playoff-Champion
Final Non-Playoff points leader Final Non-Playoff points standings Regular season champion Points standings at regular season conclusion Comment
2004 Nextel Cup Kurt Busch
Roush Racing
Jeff Gordon[22] Jeff Gordon 5042
Jimmie Johnson 4995
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 4869
Kurt Busch 4795
Tony Stewart 4701
Jeff Gordon (5th Title) Jeff Gordon 3602
Jimmie Johnson 3542
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 3541
Tony Stewart 3410
Matt Kenseth 3337
2005 Nextel Cup Tony Stewart
Joe Gibbs Racing
Tony Stewart[22] Tony Stewart 5199
Greg Biffle 4984
Jimmie Johnson 4771
Mark Martin 4676
Carl Edwards 4597
Tony Stewart (2nd Title) Tony Stewart 3716
Greg Biffle 3531
Rusty Wallace 3412
Jimmie Johnson 3400
Kurt Busch 3304
Without the Chase, Tony Stewart would have won the championship in the second to last race in Phoenix.
2006 Nextel Cup Jimmie Johnson
Hendrick Motorsports
Jimmie Johnson[23] Jimmie Johnson 5158
Matt Kenseth 5154
Kevin Harvick 4838
Tony Stewart 4727
Denny Hamlin 4725
Matt Kenseth (2nd Title) Matt Kenseth 3785
Jimmie Johnson 3728
Kevin Harvick 3481
Kyle Busch 3424
Denny Hamlin 3348
The final Non-Playoff points standings with a 4 points gap is closer than the Chase standings with a 56 points gap.
2007 Nextel Cup Jeff Gordon[24] Jeff Gordon 5455
Jimmie Johnson 5102
Tony Stewart 4749
Matt Kenseth 4718
Denny Hamlin 4623
Jeff Gordon (6th Title) Jeff Gordon 3849
Tony Stewart 3537
Denny Hamlin 3490
Jimmie Johnson 3439
Matt Kenseth 3430
Without the Chase, Jeff Gordon would have won the championship in the third to last race in Fort Worth.
2008 Sprint Cup Carl Edwards[25] Carl Edwards 5236
Jimmie Johnson 5220
Kyle Busch 4984
Greg Biffle 4747
Jeff Burton 4709
Kyle Busch (1st Title) Kyle Busch 3878
Carl Edwards 3671
Jimmie Johnson 3576
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 3488
Jeff Burton 3384
The final Non-Playoff points standings with a 16 points gap is closer than the Chase standings with a 69 points gap.
2009 Sprint Cup Jimmie Johnson[26] Jimmie Johnson 5156
Jeff Gordon 5090
Tony Stewart 5085
Denny Hamlin 4806
Mark Martin 4762
Tony Stewart (3rd Title) Tony Stewart 3806
Jeff Gordon 3627
Jimmie Johnson 3534
Denny Hamlin 3491
Kurt Busch 3322
The final Non-Playoff points standings with a 66 points gap is closer than the Chase standings with a 141 points gap.
2010 Sprint Cup Kevin Harvick[27] Kevin Harvick 5274
Jimmie Johnson 4989
Denny Hamlin 4865
Carl Edwards 4820
Jeff Gordon 4669
Kevin Harvick (1st Title) Kevin Harvick 3723
Kyle Busch 3495
Jeff Gordon 3493
Carl Edwards 3427
Tony Stewart & Jimmie Johnson 3417
Without the Chase, Kevin Harvick would have won the championship in the second to last race in Phoenix.
2011 Sprint Cup Tony Stewart
Stewart-Haas Racing
Carl Edwards[28] Carl Edwards 1278
Kevin Harvick 1200
Tony Stewart 1191
Jimmie Johnson 1188
Matt Kenseth 1180
Kyle Busch (2nd Title) Kyle Busch 890
Jimmie Johnson 887
Carl Edwards 878
Jeff Gordon 872
Kevin Harvick 867
New points scoring system was introduced.
Without the Chase, Carl Edwards would have won the championship in the second to last race in Phoenix.
2012 Sprint Cup Brad Keselowski
Penske Racing
Brad Keselowski[29] Brad Keselowski 1259
Greg Biffle 1240
Jimmie Johnson 1231
Matt Kenseth 1218
Clint Bowyer 1213
Greg Biffle (1st Title) Greg Biffle 914
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 902
Matt Kenseth 897
Jimmie Johnson 880
Brad Keselowski 868
2013 Sprint Cup Jimmie Johnson
Hendrick Motorsports
Jimmie Johnson[30] Jimmie Johnson 1248
Kevin Harvick 1207
Matt Kenseth 1192
Kyle Busch 1163
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 1144
Carl Edwards (1st Title) Carl Edwards 842
Jimmie Johnson 841
Kevin Harvick 828
Kyle Busch 811
Matt Kenseth 807
2014 Sprint Cup Kevin Harvick
Stewart-Haas Racing
Jeff Gordon Jeff Gordon 1253
Joey Logano 1216
Brad Keselowski 1179
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 1175
Kevin Harvick 1171
Jeff Gordon (7th Title) Jeff Gordon 914
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 883
Brad Keselowski 830
Joey Logano 829
Jimmie Johnson 802
2015 Sprint Cup Kyle Busch
Joe Gibbs Racing
Kevin Harvick Kevin Harvick 1321
Joey Logano 1299
Brad Keselowski 1217
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 1198
Martin Truex, Jr. 1165
Kevin Harvick (2nd Title) Kevin Harvick 978
Joey Logano 948
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 894
Brad Keselowski 873
Jimmie Johnson 852
Kyle Busch, the Playoff champion, would be 20th in the final Non-Playoff points standings, and he only participated in 25/36 points paying events, due to missing 11 races after an injury.
2016 Sprint Cup Jimmie Johnson
Hendrick Motorsports
Kevin Harvick Kevin Harvick 1159
Joey Logano 1133
Kyle Busch 1105
Brad Keselowski 1089
Denny Hamlin 1084
Kevin Harvick (3rd Title) Kevin Harvick 876
Brad Keselowski 834
Joey Logano 783
Denny Hamlin 773
Kurt Busch 762
Jimmie Johnson, the Playoff champion, would be 7th in the final Non-Playoff points standings.
2017 Monster Energy Cup Martin Truex Jr.
Furniture Row Racing
Martin Truex, Jr. Martin Truex, Jr. 1481
Kyle Busch 1314
Kevin Harvick 1276
Kyle Larson 1224
Brad Keselowski 1184
Martin Truex, Jr. (1st Title) Martin Truex, Jr. 1033
Kyle Larson 938
Kyle Busch 932
Kevin Harvick 892
Denny Hamlin 817
Introduction of stage points.
Without the Playoffs, Martin Truex, Jr. would have won the championship in the second to last race in Phoenix.
2018 Monster Energy Cup Joey Logano
Team Penske
Kyle Busch Kyle Busch 1434
Kevin Harvick 1386
Martin Truex, Jr. 1264
Joey Logano 1247
Kurt Busch 1216
Kyle Busch (3rd Title) Kyle Busch 1073
Kevin Harvick 1032
Martin Truex, Jr. 884
Kurt Busch 881
Joey Logano 849
2019 Monster Energy Cup Kyle Busch
Joe Gibbs Racing
Kyle Busch Kyle Busch 1330
Kevin Harvick 1329
Joey Logano 1320
Martin Truex, Jr. 1308
Denny Hamlin 1293
Kyle Busch (4th Title) Kyle Busch 988
Joey Logano 971
Kevin Harvick 922
Denny Hamlin 911
Martin Truex, Jr. 872
Without the Playoffs, Kyle Busch would have won the championship by 1 point.
2020 NASCAR Cup Chase Elliott
Hendrick Motorsports
Kevin Harvick Kevin Harvick 1401
Denny Hamlin 1310
Chase Elliott 1265
Brad Keselowski 1264
Joey Logano 1261
Kevin Harvick (4th Title) Kevin Harvick 1058
Denny Hamlin 943
Brad Keselowski 913
Martin Truex, Jr. 887
Joey Logano 866
Without the Playoffs, Kevin Harvick would have won the championship in the third to last race in Fort Worth.
Xfinity Series Year and Championship Playoff-Champion
Final Non-Playoff points leader Final Non-Playoff points standings Regular season champion Points standings at regular season conclusion Comment
2016 Xfinity Series Daniel Suarez
Joe Gibbs Racing
Elliott Sadler Elliott Sadler 1150
Daniel Suarez 1110
Justin Allgaier 1062
Ty Dillon 1021
Erik Jones 1005
Elliott Sadler Elliott Sadler 891
Daniel Suarez 832
Justin Allgaier 823
Ty Dillon 807
Erik Jones 797
Without the Playoffs, Elliot Sadler would have won the championship in the second to last race in Phoenix.
2017 Xfinity Series William Byron
JR Motorsports
Elliott Sadler Elliott Sadler 1181
William Byron 1074
Justin Allgaier 1044
Daniel Hemric 964
Cole Custer 945
Elliott Sadler Elliott Sadler 939
Justin Allgaier 821
William Byron 803
Daniel Hemric 736
Brennan Poole 727
Without the Playoffs, Elliot Sadler would have won the championship in the third to last race in Fort Worth.
2018 Xfinity Series Tyler Reddick
JR Motorsports
Daniel Hemric Daniel Hemric 1230
Cole Custer 1206
Christopher Bell 1205
Justin Allgaier 1200
Elliott Sadler 1163
Justin Allgaier Justin Allgaier 988
Cole Custer 944
Christopher Bell 940
Elliott Sadler 919
Daniel Hemric 910
Tyler Reddick, the Playoff champion, would be 6th in the final Non-Playoff points standings.
2019 Xfinity Series Tyler Reddick
Richard Childress Racing
Tyler Reddick Tyler Reddick 1404
Christopher Bell 1369
Cole Custer 1336
Justin Allgaier 1311
Austin Cindric 1200
Tyler Reddick Tyler Reddick 1132
Christopher Bell 1083
Cole Custer 1012
Justin Allgaier 990
Austin Cindric 923
2020 Xfinity Series Austin Cindric
Team Penske
Austin Cindric Austin Cindric 1390
Chase Briscoe 1347
Ross Chastain 1319
Noah Gragson 1275
Justin Haley 1154
Austin Cindric Austin Cindric 1135
Chase Briscoe 1070
Ross Chastain 1059
Noah Gragson 994
Justin Allgaier 918
Truck Series Year and Championship Playoff-Champion
Final Non-Playoff points leader Final Non-Playoff points standings Regular season champion Points standings at regular season conclusion Comment
2016 Truck Series Johnny Sauter
GMS Racing
Johnny Sauter Johnny Sauter 592
William Byron 589
Daniel Hemric 568
Timothy Peters 558
Christopher Bell 550
William Byron William Byron 470
Daniel Hemric 442
Johnny Sauter 433
Timothy Peters 428
Christopher Bell 421
2017 Truck Series Christopher Bell
Kyle Busch Motorsports
Christopher Bell Christopher Bell 1027
Johnny Sauter 975
Matt Crafton 893
Chase Briscoe 862
Ben Rhodes 794
Christopher Bell Christopher Bell 681
Johnny Sauter 660
Chase Briscoe 623
Matt Crafton 607
Ben Rhodes & Ryan Truex 544
2018 Truck Series Brett Moffitt
Hattori Racing Enterprises
Johnny Sauter Johnny Sauter 942
Noah Gragson 893
Grant Enfinger 853
Brett Moffitt 849
Stewart Friesen 835
Johnny Sauter Johnny Sauter 683
Noah Gragson 599
Grant Enfinger 587
Stewart Friesen 582
Brett Moffitt 560
Without the Playoffs, Johnny Sauter would have won the championship in the second to last race in Phoenix.
2019 Truck Series Matt Crafton
ThorSport Racing
Brett Moffitt Brett Moffitt 921
Grant Enfinger 882
Stewart Friesen 863
Matt Crafton 841
Ben Rhodes 773
Grant Enfinger Grant Enfinger 699
Brett Moffitt 673
Matt Crafton 640
Stewart Friesen 639
Ben Rhodes 576
2020 Truck Series Sheldon Creed
GMS Racing
Brett Moffitt Brett Moffitt 883
Sheldon Creed 873
Austin Hill 859
Zane Smith 852
Ben Rhodes 813
Austin Hill Austin Hill 645
Brett Moffitt 603
Ben Rhodes 587
Zane Smith 586
Sheldon Creed 539


The NASCAR playoffs has been criticized as a "gimmick" to the sport and has been questioned over whether it is fair compared to not having the playoff it all.[31][32] After failing to make the Championship 4 in 2020 despite winning 9 races and winning the regular season title, Kevin Harvick remarked that winning the NASCAR championship "aren’t like winning like Petty and Earnhardt used to win them."[33] Matt Crafton's Truck Series title in 2019 has also been used to argue that the format can produce a winless championship despite its focus on wins after 2014;[34] on the debut year of elimination format, Ryan Newman secured his spot on that year's Championship 4 despite winning zero races, which could theoretically allow him to win that year's Cup Series title without winning a single, or just one, race. Kyle Busch's 2015 Cup Series title (and NASCAR's decision to grant him waiver preventing him from missing the playoffs) was criticized due to the fact he missed 11 races during the season, something which would have prevented him from winning the championship in non-playoff and earlier Chase playoff points formats.[35] (A similar waiver was granted to Matt Kenseth in 2020, although Kenseth failed to qualify for that year's playoffs.)

See also


  1. ^ a b c "New playoff structure announced". January 20, 2004. Archived from the original on October 16, 2012. Retrieved July 19, 2012.
  2. ^ Sporting News Wire Service (February 7, 2008). "Predicting the 2008 Chase for the Cup champ?". Archived from the original on March 24, 2012. Retrieved July 19, 2012.
  3. ^ Bromberg, Nick (January 23, 2017). "NASCAR's points changes explained". Yahoo! Sports. Archived from the original on January 24, 2017. Retrieved January 23, 2017.
  4. ^ "NASCAR enhances on-track product with new stage-based race format" (Press release). NASCAR. January 23, 2017. Archived from the original on April 28, 2017. Retrieved May 7, 2017.
  5. ^ "Changes for 2011 include emphasis on winning – Jan 26, 2011" (Press release). NASCAR. November 28, 2010. Archived from the original on January 30, 2011. Retrieved January 27, 2011.
  6. ^ "10-race Chase for the Cup crowns series champ". NASCAR 101. NASCAR. January 28, 2011. Archived from the original on January 31, 2011. Retrieved March 6, 2011.
  7. ^ "Jeff Gordon added to Chase after NASCAR investigation Archived September 15, 2013, at the Wayback Machine"
  8. ^ "It's the day: NASCAR expected to unveil big changes to Chase Archived March 8, 2014, at the Wayback Machine"
  9. ^ Bruce, Kenny (January 30, 2014). "EXPANSION, ELIMINATIONS HIGHLIGHT CHASE CHANGES". NASCAR. Archived from the original on January 31, 2014. Retrieved January 30, 2014.
  10. ^ "Jeff Gordon works with new team in booth". United Press International. January 20, 2016. Archived from the original on January 20, 2016. Retrieved January 20, 2016.
  11. ^ "NASCAR introduces new elements for Chase drivers' cars". July 15, 2014. Archived from the original on July 17, 2014. Retrieved July 16, 2014.
  12. ^ a b "NASCAR reveals new points system, segmented race format". Sporting News. Retrieved January 27, 2017.[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ "NASCAR changes points and playoffs systems". Daytona Beach News-Journal. Archived from the original on February 2, 2017. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
  14. ^ "NASCAR implements stage-based race format, playoff-point incentives". Archived from the original on January 26, 2017. Retrieved January 27, 2017.
  15. ^ Gluck, Jeff (January 30, 2014). "NASCAR Chase changes: Frequently asked questions". USA Today. Gannett Company. Archived from the original on March 6, 2017. Retrieved May 27, 2017.
  16. ^ "NASCAR, teams, Twitter unveil playoffs hashtags, emojis". NASCAR Digital Media LLC. September 12, 2018. Retrieved September 30, 2018.
  17. ^ "NASCAR, Snapchat to celebrate together with Snapcode activation, race highlights, more". NASCAR Digital Media LLC. November 12, 2018. Retrieved November 15, 2018.
  18. ^ AMS to swap dates with Auto Club Speedway Archived November 10, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ "2011 NASCAR Schedule" (Press release). NASCAR. August 18, 2010. Archived from the original on August 22, 2010. Retrieved September 17, 2010.
  20. ^ "{title}". Archived from the original on May 6, 2017. Retrieved March 17, 2017.
  21. ^ "CHASE FORMAT EXTENDED TO XFINITY, CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES". NASCAR. January 19, 2016. Archived from the original on January 21, 2016. Retrieved January 19, 2016.
  22. ^ a b "Races – Standings". Archived from the original on May 1, 2012. Retrieved July 19, 2012.
  23. ^ "Nascar.Com". Nascar.Com. Archived from the original on August 11, 2011. Retrieved July 19, 2012.
  24. ^ "Nascar.Com". Nascar.Com. Archived from the original on October 7, 2012. Retrieved July 19, 2012.
  25. ^ "Nascar.Com". Nascar.Com. Archived from the original on October 6, 2012. Retrieved July 19, 2012.
  26. ^ "Nascar.Com". Nascar.Com. Archived from the original on October 6, 2012. Retrieved July 19, 2012.
  27. ^ "Nascar.Com". Nascar.Com. Archived from the original on August 10, 2011. Retrieved July 19, 2012.
  28. ^ "2011 Ford 400". November 20, 2011. Retrieved July 19, 2012.
  29. ^ "2012 Ford EcoBoost 400". November 18, 2012. Retrieved November 18, 2012.
  30. ^ "UNOFFICIAL 2013 Sprint Cup Driver Championship Points Standings without Chase". Jayski. November 17, 2013. Archived from the original on November 16, 2013. Retrieved November 17, 2013.
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^

External links

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