How do the NASCAR playoffs work?

One of Denver's most successful sports teams doesn't play at Mile High Stadium. 

Or Coors Field. Or the Pepsi Center. Or Dick's Sporting Goods Park.

Martin Truex Jr., one of the drivers for Denver-based Furniture Row Racing, made the NASCAR playoffs for the third year in a row.

This year, he went in as the regular season champion and has had no trouble proceeding through the first round. He's also currently the only driver with a guaranteed spot in the round of eight.

But for many in the state, it's not a sport they are very familiar with. And the playoff system is not the easiest to understand.

Officially called the Monster Energy NASCAR cup series playoffs, the 10-race competition began Sunday, September 17th with sixteen drivers. 

The 2017 champion will be crowned Nov. 19 in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. 

Here is a basic explanation of how it all works.

First, understanding the point system

Drivers earn points throughout the racing season. Points are awarded for both stage (a portion of a race with its own finish and restart) and race wins. These points determine seeding for the playoffs, determine who gets eliminated from each round and can even help a driver make the playoffs. 

Winning stage one or stage two is worth one point, winning the race is worth five points and winning the regular-season championship is worth 15 bonus points heading into the playoffs.

In 2017, a change was made so that points continue to accrue through the playoff races. 

Round One

Sixteen drivers qualify to enter the playoffs, generally by winning a race in the regular season. If there are not sixteen unique winners over the regular season, then the remaining spots are filled by drivers who earned the most regular season points.

There are three races that are part of this round: Chicagoland Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Dover International Speedway. During each race, drivers continue to get points for winning each stage and for winning the race.

At the end of the third race, the four drivers who have the least amount of points are eliminated. 

Round Two

At this point, twelve drivers remain in contention.

There are also three races for this round: Charlotte Motor Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway and Kansas Speedway. While most of the other races throughout the playoffs are one to 1.5-mile tracks, the Talladega Superspeedway has a 2.66-mile layout making it a very different race than the others.

At the end of these races, four more drivers are eliminated from contention.

Round Three

Eight drivers are now racing for a chance to compete in the championship.

The three races for this round are Martinsville Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and Phoenix Raceway. The wildcard race in this round is the first as it is a short .533-mile course.

At the end, four more drivers are eliminated.

Championship

The November 19 championship race is held at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Four remaining drivers compete in one race and the first to cross the finish line wins it all.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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