Even if you aren’t a race fan, NASCAR has an interesting format now for their playoffs. Like other racing circuits they had a points system for a long time and changed it a few years back. In the old system, as the final race of the season occurred, if there was a wide point gap, then the Championship was already determined because it was mathematically impossible for anyone to make enough points in the last race to overcome the leader. As a reminder, all drivers continue to race and a driver who is not eligible to win the Championship can still win the final race of the season and count that as a career win (which is always a good thing). Anyway, NASCAR went to a combination of points and elimination to narrow the field of what is 40-43 drivers in regular season to sixteen in the playoffs. The reason for points is because even though a win automatically puts a driver into the sixteen, there will rarely be sixteen different winners in a season. So, throughout the season, drivers get points for how well they finish each race or for example, leading laps during the race. Those points accumulate and let’s say at the time to designate the playoff sixteen, only eight drivers have won races. That means the eight drivers with the highest number of point accumulated round out the sixteen.
During the playoffs – and I don’t remember how many races there are – once again, a win makes you “safe” for the first round of elimination which will narrow the number to twelve. Today’s race was the second elimination to narrow the field to eight. The team we root for is Stewart-Haas and only two of those drivers made it to the sixteen. Only one made it after the first elimination race. He had a slight margin with points and throughout the race Sunday, he lost and gained points. It came down to the last minutes as a late wreck caused typical havoc on the track and in the closing laps our guy managed to cling to the playoffs by two points. That makes him vulnerable going forward, so we’ll see how next week goes. A win would of course be the best answer to allow him to move into the “Final Four”, but strong runs and good finishes will help some.