Why NASCAR's playoff system isn't really 'win and in'

NASCAR’s playoff system is often referred to as a “win and in” method, but that is not totally exact, as the start of the 2021 period has highlighted.

The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series time opened up in contrast to any year in the previous seven decades, with two motorists starting to be to start with-time winners in the season’s initially two races. Equally races took location at Daytona International Speedway, with the very first remaining the Daytona 500 on the oval and the second getting the O’Reilly Vehicle Components 253 on the road study course.

Front Row Motorsports’ Michael McDowell secured his very first acquire in 358 starts in the Daytona 500, major only the closing lap following a massive crash.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell muscled his way past Staff Penske’s Joey Logano with just in excess of one lap remaining to secure his initial acquire in his 38th vocation begin — and just his next as a Joe Gibbs Racing driver.

Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron became the to start with former winner to earn a race this season, successful at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

In the 12 races that have been contested considering the fact that then, we have witnessed eight other motorists locate victory lane.

It took until finally the season’s eighth race before a repeat winner emerged, with that being Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr., who won at Phoenix Raceway in March and then at Martinsville Speedway in April. He then received at Darlington Raceway in Might, and Hendrick Motorsports’ Alex Bowman became the 2nd repeat winner of the yr, successful at Richmond Raceway in April and then at Dover International Speedway in Might.

Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson grew to become the third, winning at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March and then at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May perhaps.

Specified NASCAR’s playoff program and the “win and in” character of it, logic would convey to you that all 11 race winners are locked into the playoffs. Nevertheless, that assertion alone holds no water mainly because of the simple fact that there are 26 typical time races and just 16 playoff places. So there could easily be more winners than available playoff spots.

We have by no means operate into a circumstance in which there have been far more winners than playoff spots, but it is entirely feasible that it could materialize, and if it is heading to transpire, it will probable occur this yr with the 2021 period staying the remaining time of the existing technology car.

Seven various winners in the 1st 7 races of a season had happened many situations in advance of. But the point that neither one of the very first two winners had won any race before, which is anything that hadn’t transpired to start a period because 1950, as well as the fact that the first 3 winners entered the season with just one particular merged victory indicated early on that we could quite nicely occur shut to that 16-winner mark this yr.

And now here we are with 11 various winners and however 11 normal period races remaining.

There are easily additional than five other drivers who could come across victory lane at some issue prior to the normal year finishes. That brings to the forefront the point that NASCAR’s playoff technique isn’t genuinely a “win and in” method.

The typical period points champion is assured a playoff berth, no matter whether he wins a race or not. He probably will have, but that in alone is not even a guarantee.

Proper now, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin sales opportunities the stage standings — quite comfortably, in fact — and he has not nevertheless gained.

Over and above that, the ultimate 15 places go to the 15 winningest motorists, offered they rank in the major 30 in the position standings. If 16 other motorists have wins, the tiebreaker comes down to details.

If much less than 15 other drivers have wins — let’s say 11 — then people 11 motorists get in, additionally the up coming 4 drivers in the stage standings.

The only way to actually lock up a playoff location by profitable is by profitable at least twice, considering that two wins is guaranteed to make a driver one of the 15 winningest drivers. At most, there can only be 13 drivers who win many frequent time races.

So Truex, Bowman and Larson are the only three motorists who have truly locked by themselves into the playoffs through the season’s 1st 15 races. The other 8 a single-race winners technically are not 100% risk-free nevertheless.

Winning one race assists for guaranteed.

But it’s practically a lock. It’s not a 100% assurance.

It does not lock up just about anything until you can no lengthier mathematically close up with a lot more than 16 unique frequent season race winners.

Will the 2021 NASCAR Cup Sequence standard season see a lot more than 16 winners, or will the playoff technique again fit the “win and in” narrative, even even though it technically does not wholly line up with that thought? Of the 11 remaining normal year races, 4 are road training course races and one particular is a superspeedway race, and maintain in mind that we have not found Hamlin or Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick win at all but this calendar year. They combined for 16 wins last yr.

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