NASCAR Playoffs, Explained: Final Race Schedule, Format for 16 Drivers Who Reached the 2021 Cup Threshold

NASCAR has reached the playoff stage of the 2021 Cup Series season. The regular season ended on Saturday August 28 with the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway. The race results finalized the peloton of 16 drivers and determined the starting order for the opening round of 16.

Sporting News details the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series qualifiers, including the drivers, format and dates of the 10 races that will decide a series champion for 2021.

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Who made the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs in 2021?

Sixteen drivers advanced to the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. Kyle Larson won the regular season points championship and was seeded No. 1 in the playoffs. Tyler Reddick rounded out the field on the final night of the regular season in the Coke Zero Sugar 400, fending off teammate Austin Dillon and getting help from the race-winning playoff driver Ryan Blaney.

Seven of the 16 drivers in the playoffs are former Cup Series champions: Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick.

Pos.DriverCar numberTeamPoints
1Kyle larson5Hendrick Motorsports2052
2Ryan blaney12Penske team2024
3Martin Truex Jr.19Joe gibbs racing2024
4Kyle busch18Joe gibbs racing2022
5Chase Elliott9Hendrick Motorsports2021
6Alex Bowman48Hendrick Motorsports2015
7Denny hamlin11Joe gibbs racing2015
8Guillaume Byron24Hendrick Motorsports2014
9Joey logano22Penske team2013
tenBrad Keselowski2Penske team2008
11Kurt busch1Chip Ganassi Racing2008
12Christophe bell20Joe gibbs racing2005
13Aric almirolatenStewart-Haas Race2005
14Michael mcdowell34Motorsports in the first row2005
15Tyler reddick8Richard Childress Racing2003
16Kevin harvic4Stewart-Haas Race2002

How do the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs work?

The NASCAR Cup Series playoffs consist of four rounds: the Round of 16, Round of 12, Round of 8, and Championship 4. The Round of 16, Round of 12, and Round of 8 consist of three races each. Championship 4 is a one-race, four-driver showdown for the NASCAR Cup.

All playoff drivers start the round of 16 with 2,000 playoff points. NASCAR then adds the bonus points that the drivers have earned during the regular season: for race wins (five points per victory), stage wins (one point per stage victory) and the top 10 in the standings. of the regular season (15 points for first place, nine points for second place and, finally, up to one point for 10th place). The final point totals define the starting order of the round of 16.

NASCAR will also reset the total points for each round: to 3,000 points (plus playoff bonus points) for the round of 12, to 4,000 points (plus playoff bonus points) for the round of 8, and to 5,000 points for the championship 4.

Playoff drivers advance to the next lap by winning a race or completing a lap with enough points to be above the cut-off line. The last four drivers at the end of each of the first three laps are eliminated. Ultimately, only four drivers will be alive for the Championship 4 race in Phoenix.

2021 NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Schedule

round of 16

DatedRaceTrackTime (ET)TVRadio
September 5Cook the South 500Darlington Circuit6:00 p.m.NBCSNMRN
September 11thFederated auto parts 400Richmond Racing Circuit7:30 p.m.NBCSNMRN
September 18Bass Pro Shops Night RaceBristol Motor Circuit7:30 p.m.NBCSNPRN

Round of 12

DatedRaceTrackTime (ET)TVRadio
September 26South Point 400Las Vegas Auto Circuit7:00 p.m.NBCSNPRN
October 3YellaWood 500Talladega Superspeedway2:00 p.m.NBCMRN
October 10Bank of America ROVAL 400Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course2:00 p.m.NBCPRN

Round of 8

DatedRaceTrackTime (ET)TVRadio
17 octoberAutotrader EchoPark Automotive 500Texas Motor Circuit2:00 p.m.NBCPRN
24 octoberHollywood Casino 400Kansas Motor Circuit3 p.m.NBCSNMRN
October 31Xfinity 500Martinsville Motor Circuit2:00 p.m.NBCMRN

Championship Race 4

DatedRaceTrackTime (ET)TVRadio
November 7NASCAR Cup Series ChampionshipPhoenix circuit3 p.m.NBCMRN

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