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NASCAR Playoffs 101: What you need to know

Welcome to the NASCAR Playoffs! Read on to brush up on how the postseason works and the key dates for all three national series.

EDITOR’S NOTE: 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Grid pictured.

2023aug26 Playoff Grid

How the NASCAR Playoffs are structured

For all three NASCAR national series, there are a series of eliminations as the NASCAR Playoffs progress. This culminates in the series finales, where the Championship 4 drivers race “straight-up” for the title — the first to cross the line of the four championship-eligible drivers is crowned the champion. This year’s championship weekend is Nov. 8-10 at Phoenix Raceway.

How NASCAR drivers get to the playoffs

“Win and you’re in.” Championship-eligible drivers who won a race during the regular season qualify for the playoffs. If there are fewer unique race winners than open spots in the playoffs, the remaining positions are filled based on regular-season points.

NASCAR Playoffs by series: Round-by-round

NASCAR Cup Series

  • 16 drivers, four rounds
  • Playoffs begin at Atlanta Motor Speedway (Sept. 8)
  • Elimination races, where four drivers are eliminated from the playoffs: Bristol Motor Speedway (Sept. 21), Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Oct. 13), Martinsville Speedway (Nov. 3)

NASCAR Xfinity Series

  • 12 drivers, three rounds
  • Playoffs begin at Kansas Speedway (Sept. 28)
  • Elimination races, where four drivers are eliminated from the playoffs: Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Oct. 12) and Martinsville Speedway (Nov. 2)

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series

  • 10 drivers, three rounds
  • Playoffs begin at Milwaukee Mile Speedway (Aug. 25)
  • Elimination races: Kansas Speedway (Sept. 27; two drivers eliminated) and Martinsville Speedway (Nov. 1; four drivers eliminated)

How Does the NASCAR Point System Work

Throughout the NASCAR regular season, drivers in all three national series earn 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.

How 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 (fourth = seven points, fifth = six 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 are added to a championship-contending driver’s reset points total at the start of every round of the NASCAR 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 Phoenix Raceway, playoff points are off the table and the Championship 4 drivers enter the “winner-take-all” race on equal ground.