Rebuilt Playoffs schedule to heighten drama, beating-and-banging

A retooled NASCAR Playoffs schedule is among the highlights of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series schedule release, with changes to all three elimination races serving as the capstone of a rebuilt postseason.

Bristol Motor Speedway, the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course and Martinsville Speedway — tracks known for producing plenty of fireworks, flared tempers and dented sheet metal — will serve as hosts for the final events in the Round of 16, Round of 12 and Round of 8, respectively.

RELATED: Full 2020 schedule | Finales shifting next season

Below is a look at the 2020 Playoffs breakdown, with the champion being decided at ISM Raceway in Phoenix:


The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs open Sept. 6 at historic Darlington Raceway, which returns to the postseason for the first time since 2004. The NASCAR throwback program that has made Darlington one of the must-watch events of the year gets some added mojo, turning the crown jewel Southern 500 into a postseason event.

From there, the series heads to Richmond Raceway for a Saturday night race. It will be Richmond’s third consecutive year hosting a playoff race.

This round ends under the lights at Bristol Motor Speedway as the much-anticipated Bristol Night Race moves from its historic August date to this high-stakes elimination position, where four drivers will leave Thunder Valley out of the postseason. The necessity of tight racing, plus the opportunity to move cars out of the way on the high-banked, .533-mile oval, should make for an explosive end to the opening round.


Las Vegas Motor Speedway remains in the Playoffs, just in a new spot. Instead of serving as the opening race for the entire postseason, Sin City will play host to the Round of 12 opener. Moving this postseason race three weeks later should make for a cooler race weekend in Las Vegas as well.

Always unpredictable Talladega Superspeedway follows Las Vegas, keeping its middle spot in the Round of 12.

The Charlotte road course, which hosted a dramatic debut with an all-timer of a finish in 2018, closes the Round of 12. As the elimination race in the Round of 16 last year, the high-stakes atmosphere led to a finish that saw Jimmie Johnson overdrive the final turn, taking out both himself and race leader Martin Truex Jr. Ryan Blaney snuck by to win the race, and Johnson was eliminated from the postseason.


For the first time in the history of the elimination-style format, Kansas Speedway moves to the Round of 8, taking the opening spot in the three-race series. The opener, in fact, takes place at Kansas. Texas Motor Speedway keeps its same spot on the slate as the middle race in the Round of 8. That gives the Round of 8 two consecutive 1.5-mile tracks.

RELATED: Martinsville on the move

Martinsville Speedway, which has hosted some of the most memorable moments in NASCAR Playoffs history, is the Round of 8 elimination race. Yes, the oldest track on the NASCAR circuit — which in recent years has given us “We’re going to Homestead!” and “He ain’t winning the damn war” — moves to the all-important final race before the Championship 4 field is set for the Championship Race in the desert.