How the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Works
The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season is about to come to a close, but it’s never too late to learn more about America’s favorite motorsports racing spectacle. A lot has changed about NASCAR’s approach in determining their champion over the past few years, with fans torn between liking or disliking the current playoff format.
We at NitroBetting are back with another short feature covering just how the NASCAR Cup playoffs work. Find out more about the rules and evolution of the stock car racing postseason, as well as the drivers who’ve found success since the revamped playoff format. Be sure to also check out the latest Motor Sports odds and lines for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 race this Sunday at Phoenix Raceway after this.
Chasing the Changing Times
Beginning in 2004, NASCAR introduced the “Chase for the Championship” playoff format. Since then, there have been five revisions of the playoffs, with the massive overhaul of the format in 2014 signaling the start of the NASCAR playoffs as we know it today. The changes were so drastic that NASCAR officials decided to get rid of the “Chase for the Cup” tagline for the postseason and simply dubbed it as the NASCAR playoffs.
The final 10 races of any given season since 2014 have been reserved for the NASCAR playoffs proper. The top 16 drivers who won a race during the regular season will automatically get a spot in the playoffs. Should fewer than 16 drivers win a race, the remaining drivers will then be ranked based on the stage points they earned during the regular-season campaign to round out the final 16 competitors.
Three cuts are then imposed across the 10-race postseason schedule. The bottom four drivers in the points standings after the first three races of the NASCAR playoffs will be eliminated from title contention. After another three-race set, the field of 12 drivers will then be cut down to just eight, followed by another three-race set to ultimately decide the final four drivers who’ll fight it out for the Bill France Trophy in the last race of the year.
Drivers who’ve been eliminated in previous rounds will still partake in the succeeding playoff races. However, they’re no longer eligible to be in the running for the championship title. In turn, eliminated drivers from the postseason can still make or break the remaining contenders’ runs with stage points still being the deciding factor of the eventual year-end champ.
2021 NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 Contenders
Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, and Martin Truex Jr. are the four drivers left in the running for the Bill France Trophy, and the four of them will duke it out one last time this Sunday at Phoenix Raceway.
Larson is the odds-on favorite at (+165) to win the Cup Series title after having a dominant 2021 campaign. He has twice as many wins this season (nine) as the next winningest drivers of the year, with one of the two being Truex (+300) with his four wins. Defending Cup Series champion Chase Elliott (+265) is in the mix, as well as Daytona 500 dominator Hamlin (+285), who’s still in search of his first-ever Cup Series championship along with Larson.