How do the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs work?

With the NASCAR 2022 regular season coming back on February 20, 2022, for the Daytona 500, we break down the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, including the drivers, format and dates for the races that will decide a series champion for 2022.

NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs: Explained

The structure of a NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs

A series of eliminations take place to determine the 4 drivers to race the Championship race at Phoenix Raceway. This year’s championship weekend is scheduled for November 6, 2022.

There are four rounds that make up the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs: The Round of 16, Round of 12, Round of 8 and finally the Championship 4. The first three consist of three races each while the last is a one-time showdown between four drivers to see who will bag the NASCAR Cup.

After the third playoff race, there will be 12 drivers who will proceed to the Round of 12. After the sixth playoff race, the field will drop to eight drivers who will compete in the Round of 8. Following the ninth playoff race, only four drivers will remain in championship contention.

All playoff drivers’ points will be adjusted to 2,000 before the playoffs begin, and all playoff points will be added to their total.

#6: Brad Keselowski, RFK Racing, Ford Mustang Castrol Violet Defense #23: Bubba Wallace, 23XI Racing, Toyota Camry DoorDash #2: Austin Cindric, Team Penske, Ford Mustang Freightliner #21: Harrison Burton, Wood Brothers Racing, Ford Mustang Motorcraft / Quick Lane #22: Joey Logano, Team Penske, Ford Mustang Shell Pennzoil

Round of 16

The Round of 16 is the first round (races 27-29). During this round, any playoff driver who wins a race advances to the next round (Round of 12). The remaining positions not already filled based on wins will be filled based on points. Following that, each driver’s points will be reset to 3,000, with any playoff points awarded added.

Round of 12

The Round of 12 is the second round (races 30-32). Just like the first round, any playoff driver who wins a race advances to the next round (Round of 8). The remaining positions not already filled based on wins will be filled based on points. Likewise, each driver’s points will be reset to 4,000 this time, with any playoff points awarded added.

Round of 8

The round of 12 is the third round (races 33-35). Likewise, any playoff driver who wins a race advances to the next round (Championship 4). The remaining positions not already filled based on wins will be filled based on points. Additionally, each driver’s points will be reset to 5,000 this time.

There are no playoff points available at Phoenix Raceway, so the Championship 4 drivers begin the “winner-take-all” race on equal footing.

As well as these rounds, the points of the drivers eliminated in Rounds 12 and 8 will be readjusted. All eliminated drivers will return to the playoff-start base of 2,000 points, with all points awarded in the playoffs and any accumulated points, beginning with race 27. As a result, all drivers not in contention for the championship will be able to race for the best possible season-long standing, with the final positions fifth through 16th still up for grabs.

Playoff Points

The following are the breakdown of the playoff points drivers can win and add to their base points on each round:

  • race wins =  five points per win
  • stage wins = one point per stage win
  • finishing in the top 10 in the regular-season standings = 15 points for first place, nine points for second place and, finally, down to one point for 10th place)

The final points totals set the starting order for the next round.

NASCAR Cup Series playoffs
#2: Brad Keselowski, Team Penske, Ford Mustang Discount Tire

The drivers

16 drivers race makes a playoff.

A spot in the playoffs will go to the 15 drivers who have won the most races so far – as long as they placed in the top 30 in points and attempted to qualify for each race (except in rare cases). The 16th spot will go to the points leader after 26 races if they don’t have a win. There will, however, only be one winless driver eligible for a playoff spot if there are 16 or more different race winners in 26 races.

If fewer than 16 different drivers have won the first 26 races, the remaining playoff positions will go to those drivers with the highest points total.

If 16 or more winners are declared in the first 26 races, ties are broken based on the number of wins followed by points.

NASCAR Cup Series 2021 playoffs schedule

Playoffs Round of 16
Sun., Sep 4Cook Out Southern 500Darlington Raceway
Sun., Sep 11Hollywood Casino 400Kansas Speedway
Sat., Sep 17Bass Pro Shops NRA Night RaceBristol Motor Speedway
Playoffs Round of 12
Sun., Sep 25Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500Texas Motor Speedway
Sun., Oct 2YellaWood 500Talladega Superspeedway
Sun., Oct 9Bank of America ROVAL 400Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL
Playoffs Round of 8
Sun., Oct 16South Point 400Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Sun., Oct 23Dixie Vodka 400Homestead-Miami Speedway
Sun., Oct 30Xfinity 500Martinsville Raceway
Championship Race
Sun., Nov 6Season Finale 500Phoenix Raceway

For the complete schedule, check this article.

The teams and drivers racing for playoff spots this 2022

Full-Time Teams

#1 – Ross Chastain – Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet (Crew Chief: Phil Surgen)

#2 – Austin Cindric (R) – Team Penske Ford (Crew Chief: Jeremy Bullins)

#3 – Austin Dillon – Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet (Crew Chief: Justin Alexander)

#4 – Kevin Harvick – Stewart-Haas Racing Ford (Crew Chief: Rodney Childers)

#5 – Kyle Larson – Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet (Crew Chief: Cliff Daniels)

#6 – Brad Keselowski – RFK Racing Ford (Crew Chief: Matt McCall)

#7 – Corey LaJoie – Spire Motorsports Chevrolet (Crew Chief: Ryan Sparks)

#8 – Tyler Reddick – Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet (Crew Chief: Randall Burnett)

#9 – Chase Elliott – Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet (Crew Chief: Alan Gustafson)

#10 – Aric Almirola – Stewart-Haas Racing Ford (Crew Chief: Drew Blickensderfer)

#11 – Denny Hamlin – Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota (Crew Chief: Chris Gabehart)

#12 – Ryan Blaney – Team Penske Ford (Crew Chief: Jonathan Hassler)

#14 – Chase Briscoe – Stewart-Haas Racing Ford (Crew Chief: John Klausmeier)

#15 – David Ragan, Ryan Preece, and Joey Hand – Rick Ware Racing Ford (Crew Chief: Jason Houghtaling)

#16 – A.J. Allmendinger, Daniel Hemric and Noah Gragson – Kaulig Racing Chevrolet (Crew Chief: Matt Swiderski)

#17 – Chris Buescher – RFK Racing Ford (Crew Chief: Scott Graves)

#18 – Kyle Busch – Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota (Crew Chief: Ben Beshore)

#19 – Martin Truex Jr. – Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota (Crew Chief: James Small)

#20 – Christopher Bell – Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota (Crew Chief: Adam Stevens)

#21 – Harrison Burton (R) – Wood Brothers Racing Ford (Crew Chief: Brian Wilson)

#22 – Joey Logano – Team Penske Ford (Crew Chief: Paul Wolfe)

#23 – Bubba Wallace – 23XI Racing Toyota (Crew Chief: Bootie Barker)

#24 – William Byron – Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet (Crew Chief: Rudy Fugle)

#31 – Justin Haley – Kaulig Racing Chevrolet (Crew Chief: Trent Owens)

#34 – Michael McDowell – Front Row Motorsports Ford (Crew Chief: Blake Harris)

#38 – Todd Gilliland (R) – Front Row Motorsports Ford (Crew Chief: Seth Barbour)

#41 – Cole Custer – Stewart-Haas Racing Ford (Crew Chief: Mike Shiplett)

#42 – Ty Dillon – Petty GMS Motorsports Chevrolet (Crew Chief: Jerame Donley)

#43 – Erik Jones – Petty GMS Motorsports Chevrolet (Crew Chief: Dave Elenz)

#45 – Kurt Busch – 23XI Racing Toyota (Crew Chief: Billy Scott)

#47 – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet (Crew Chief: Brian Pattie)

#48 – Alex Bowman – Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet (Crew Chief: Greg Ives)

#51 – Cody Ware – Rick Ware Racing Ford (Crew Chief: Billy Plourde)

No. 77 – Josh Bilicki and Landon Cassill – Spire Motorsports Chevrolet (Crew Chief: Kevin Bellicourt)

#78 – B.J. McLeod – Live Fast Motorsports Ford (Crew Chief: Lee Leslie)

#99 – Daniel Suarez – Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet (Crew Chief: Travis Mack)

Part-Time Teams/Teams with no Charter

#27 – Loris Hezemans and Jacques Villeneuve – Team Hezeberg Ford

#50 – Kaz Grala – The Money Team Racing Chevrolet (Crew Chief: Tony Eury Jr.)

#62 – Noah Gragson – Beard Motorsports Chevrolet (Crew Chief: Darren Shaw)

#66 – Timmy Hill – MBM Motorsports Ford (Crew Chief: Clinton Cram)

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