NASCAR Playoffs 101: What you need to know

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs begin this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway, and playoffs open the following week for the NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Here’s what you need to know:

WHAT’S THE SAME? THE STRUCTURE
For all three NASCAR national series, the Championship 4 drivers race “straight-up” for the title at Homestead-Miami Speedway — the first to cross the line of the four championship-eligible drivers is crowned the champion!

How they got here:
“Win and you’re in.” Championship-eligible drivers who won a race during the regular season, attempted to qualify for all regular-season races and met a minimum points position (Monster Energy Series: Top 30; NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Top 20) qualify for the Playoffs.

If there are fewer unique race winners than open spots in the Playoffs, the remaining positions will be filled based on regular-season points.

Round-by-round:

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
– 16 drivers, four rounds
– Playoffs begin Sept. 17 at Chicagoland Speedway
– Cutoff races, where four drivers are eliminated from the playoffs: Dover International Speedway, Kansas Speedway, Phoenix Raceway

NASCAR XFINITY Series
– 12 drivers, three rounds
– Playoffs begin at Kentucky Speedway, Sept. 23
– Cutoff races, where four drivers are eliminated from the playoffs: Charlotte Motor Speedway and Phoenix Raceway

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
– 8 drivers, three rounds
– Playoffs begin at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Sept. 23
– Cutoff races, where two drivers are eliminated from the playoffs: Talladega Superspeedway and Phoenix Raceway

WHAT’S NEW? THE POINTS
Throughout the regular season, drivers in all three national series earned “playoff points” to be used in the postseason. The playoff points procedure is uniform across all three national series and continues in the Playoffs for drivers who remain in contention.

Ways drivers earn playoff points:
• Win Stage 1 or Stage 2 in a race: 1 playoff point (point awarded per stage win)
• Win a race: 5 playoff points
• Win the regular-season championship: 15 playoff points

Second place in the final regular-season standings earns 10 playoff points, third place receives eight points, and the points awarded decline to one point for 10th 
(4th = 7 points, 5th = 6 points, etc.).

Championship-contending drivers can accumulate additional playoff points throughout the Playoffs via stage and race wins and may use all the playoff points they earn, from both the regular season and the Playoffs, to advance all the way up to the Championship 4.

Playoff points take effect during the … Playoffs:

Playoff points are added to a championship-contending driver’s reset points total at the start of every round of the Playoffs until they are eliminated from championship contention.

If a driver accumulates playoff points during the regular season, but does not qualify for the Playoffs, their playoff points are eliminated from the scoreboard.

At Homestead-Miami, playoff points are off the table and the Championship 4 drivers enter the “winner-take-all” race all even.

How the points are reset:

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

– First round: 2,000 points + playoff points
– Second round: 3,000 points + playoff points
– Third round: 4,000 points + playoff points
– Championship 4: 5,000 points (no playoff points added)

NASCAR XFINITY Series

– First round: 2,000 points + playoff points
– Second round: 3,000 points + playoff points
– Championship 4: 4,000 points (no playoff points added)

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
– First round: 2,000 points + playoff points
– Second round: 3,000 points + playoff points
– Championship 4: 4,000 points (no playoff points added)