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The NASCAR playoffs is a championship playoff system used in the 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. In 2016, NASCAR implemented a version of the Chase 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" which would be replaced by the word "Playoffs".[3]


Origins of the playoffsEdit

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"Edit

The playoff system has been referred to as "the Matt Kenseth Rule" as a result of Kenseth's championship in the final year of the series with Winston sponsorship in 2003, the year prior to NASCAR adopting the playoff system and Nextel becoming the namesake sponsor. In 2003, Kenseth won the then-Winston Cup series championship despite winning only one race (that being the third race of the year in Las Vegas Motor Speedway) but ending the season with 25 top-ten finishes. In contrast, Ryan Newman won eight races that year (22% of the 36 races run in 2003), but finished sixth in points due to DNFs from crashes. In truth, "the Matt Kenseth Rule" more properly refers to the NASCAR numerical scoring system also implemented for the 2004 season, which increased the points awarded to race winners, thus emphasizing winning in addition to consistency. NASCAR acknowledged that the 2003 championship outcome was not the driving factor in establishment of the playoffs, as NASCAR had been researching methods to adjust the points system to put more emphasis on winning races since 2000. However, the coincidence of the commencement of the new format in 2004 and Kenseth's 2003 championship linked the issues, and were even referred to by NASCAR officials in the interviews and press releases following the announcement of the new format.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup SeriesEdit

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 historyEdit

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 Singapore Sling 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 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 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 PlaceEdit

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 EliminationEdit

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 CutEdit

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 RaceEdit

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]

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series tracksEdit

The following are the ten race tracks at which the final ten Monster Energy 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 will lose its playoff date in 2018. Las Vegas will replace New Hampshire and will be the Playoff opener.[20]
  • Chicagoland race will be removed from the playoffs; moves back to July.
  • Richmond will be the second race in the Playoffs.
  • Charlotte race moved one week earlier and will be 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 will no longer host the final race of the season as the race date will move to late March, ending a tradition dating back to 2002; the final race of the season will now be held in Phoenix.
  • Dover race will be removed from the playoffs; moves to late August.
  • Darlington (which has not hosted a race since 2004) will host the playoff opener; the Las Vegas race will be the first race of the second round.
  • Bristol Motor Speedway will host a race in the playoffs for the first time, as the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race (which will serve as the last race of the first round) moves from late August to mid-September.
  • Charlotte race will be moved two weeks back, becoming the last race of the second round.
  • Martinsville race will be 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
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
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
Charlotte Motor Speedway Concord, NC 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 4 4 4 3 3 6
Dover International Speedway Dover, DE 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 4 4 N/A
Talladega Superspeedway Talladega, AL 3 3 4 4 4 7 7 6 4 6 6 6 6 5 5 5 5
Kansas Speedway Kansas City, KS 4 4 3 3 3 3 3 4 6 4 4 5 5 6 6 6 7
Martinsville Speedway Ridgeway, VA 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 9
Texas Motor Speedway Fort Worth, TX N/A 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8 8
Phoenix International Raceway Avondale, AZ 8 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 10
Homestead-Miami Speedway Homestead, FL 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 N/A
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
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
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
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
  • 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.

NASCAR Cup Series championsEdit

Seven different drivers have won the Monster Energy 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 is the only other driver to win multiple championships since the system was introduced.

Year Champion Team Wins Top 5s Top 10s
2004 Kurt Busch Roush Racing 3 10 21
2005 Tony Stewart Joe Gibbs Racing 5 17 25
2006 Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Motorsports 5 13 24
2007 10 20 24
2008 7 15 22
2009 7 16 24
2010 6 17 23
2011 Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Racing 5 9 19
2012 Brad Keselowski Penske Racing 5 13 23
2013 Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Motorsports 6 16 24
2014 Kevin Harvick Stewart-Haas Racing 5 14 20
2015 Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Racing 5 12 16
2016 Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Motorsports 5 11 16
2017 Martin Truex Jr. Furniture Row Racing 8 19 26
2018 Joey Logano Team Penske 3 13 26

Non-playoff system Cup Series championsEdit

Below are the hypothetical champions if the playoffs had not been implemented. Given the many ways that the playoffs change race strategy, there is no way to know if these results would have actually occurred.

  • 2004: Jeff Gordon would have won his 5th career title and the 6th title for car owner Rick Hendrick.[21] Going into the final race at Homestead, only Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. would have had a shot to win the title.
  • 2005: Tony Stewart, first driver in NASCAR history to win both old points format and Chase system, would win either way.[22]
  • 2006: Jimmie Johnson would win the title either way in 2006.[23]Only Johnson and Matt Kenseth would have had a shot to win the title going into Homestead.
  • 2007: Jeff Gordon would have won his 6th career title – the 8th title for Hendrick and three of the last four. Wins by over 350 points.[24]
  • 2008: Carl Edwards would have dethroned Johnson by 16 points for first title.[25] Going into Homestead, only Edwards and Johnson would have had a shot to win the championship.
  • 2009: Jimmie Johnson would get second title beating Gordon by 66 points. 4 of the last 6 for Hendrick.[26] Either way he would win. At Homestead, only Johnson, Tony Stewart, and Jeff Gordon would have had a shot to win the title.
  • 2010: Kevin Harvick dominated the entire season beating Johnson by over 200 points.[27]
  • 2011: With the new 2011 season's points format, Carl Edwards takes 2nd title in four seasons after clinching title at Phoenix after finishing 2nd to Kasey Kahne.[28] Edwards' effort would be a repeat of Kenseth's 2003 title, winning only the third race of the season in a Roush Racing entry.
  • 2012: Brad Keselowski beats Greg Biffle by 19 points, while Jimmie Johnson still finishes third, 28 points behind. Either way he would win.[29] Going into Homestead, Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, and Greg Biffle would have had a shot to win the title.
  • 2013: Jimmie Johnson wins his third championship by 41 points over Kevin Harvick and 56 points over Matt Kenseth.[30] Either way he would win. Going into Homestead, only Johnson and Kevin Harvick would have had a shot to win it.
  • 2014: Jeff Gordon wins his seventh title by 37 points over Joey Logano, tying himself with Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty for the most Cup championships of all time. Going into Homestead, only Gordon and Logano would have had a shot at the championship.
  • 2015: Kevin Harvick wins his second championship, beating Joey Logano by 22 points. Jeff Gordon finishes eighth to conclude a 23-year career and Kyle Busch finishes 20th despite missing 11 races. Harvick and Logano would have been the only drivers with a shot to win it going into Homestead.
  • 2016: Kevin Harvick becomes the first driver to repeat as Cup champion since Jeff Gordon in 1998, collecting his third series title. He also is just the seventh driver in Cup history to win at least three championships. Joey Logano finished second for the third consecutive season, missing out on the title by 27 points. Kyle Busch was third, while three-time series champion Jimmie Johnson was eighth. At Homestead, it would have been a three way battle for the championship between Harvick, Logano, and Brad Keselowski.
  • 2017: Martin Truex Jr. wins his first championship by 167 points over runner up Kyle Busch. Three time series champion Kevin Harvick would have been third, 205 points back, and Brad Keselowski would have been fifth, 297 points back. Either way, Truex would have won the title.
  • 2018: Kyle Busch wins his first championship by 54 points over runner up Kevin Harvick. Truex Jr. would've been third, Joey Logano fourth and Kurt Busch fifth.

Xfinity and Truck SeriesEdit

On January 19, 2016, NASCAR announced the introduction of a playoff format for the Xfinity Series and the Camping World Truck Series.[31] Both series use the same elimination formula as the Monster Energy 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 (Las Vegas and Phoenix), the bottom two drivers in the playoffs standings are eliminated from contention. The Xfinity playoffs has twelve drivers, and the bottom four in points are eliminated at the end of each round (Dover and Phoenix). The rules for fifth place continue to be the same.

Non playoff system Xfinty Series championsEdit

Below are the hypothetical champions if the playoffs had not been implemented. Given the many ways that the playoffs change race strategy, there is no way to know if these results would have actually occurred.

  • 2016: Elliott Sadler would have finally won his first ever NASCAR Xfinity Series championship over Daniel Suarez by 44 points, winning the second Xfinity Series title for Jr Motorsports.
  • 2017: For the second year in a row, Elliott Sadler wins the Xfinity Series championship by a whopping 105 points over rookie William Byron, thus winning the third Xfinity Series title for Jr Motorsports.
  • 2018: The "fast five" series regulars- Daniel Hemric, Cole Custer, Christopher Bell, Justin Allgaier, and Elliott Sadler, all fought for this title over the second half of the season, with all five mathematically eligible at Miami. Ultimately, Hemric would win by 8 points over Custer, with all five drivers finishing within 51 points of each other.

See alsoEdit


  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
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