Everything you need to know before the 2022 NASCAR Playoffs

Bill France Cup
Sixteen drivers hope to raise the Bill France Cup at Phoenix Raceway in 10 weeks.

Following a turbulent 26-race regular season, it’s finally time for the NASCAR Playoffs.

Sixteen drivers will compete for the Bill France Cup, which will be awarded to the champion in November. But to win it all, drivers must survive three elimination rounds before defeating the best competitors in the finale.

Will Kyle Larson repeat as champion? Could Chase Elliott win his second title in three years? Or is a veteran like Kyle Busch or Kevin Harvick poised to win another championship?

Here’s everything you need to know about the NASCAR Playoffs, including the standings, format, schedule and more:

How do the NASCAR Playoffs work?

Buckle up, because this format can get tricky.

Drivers qualify for the playoffs by winning a regular-season race. Since there were 15 different playoff-eligible winners this season, the 16th and final spot was filled based on points.

Once the playoffs begin, the points standings are reset. Each playoff driver is given 2,000 points to start, but points are added based on regular-season performance. If a driver wins a race, that gives him five playoff points. If a driver wins a stage (each race consists of three stages), that gives him one playoff point. The regular-season champion gets 15 playoff points, while second-place gets 10, third gets eight, fourth gets seven and so on.


So, take Chase Elliott for example. He made the playoffs (2,000 points), won the regular-season championship (15 points), won four races (20 points) and won five stages (five points). That gives him 2,040 points to start the playoffs, most among all drivers.

There are 10 races and four rounds in the playoffs – the Round of 16, Round of 12, Round of 8 and Championship 4. The first three rounds consist of three races each, while the Championship 4 comes down to one single race.

At the end of the first three rounds, four drivers are eliminated, trimming the contenders from 16 to 12 to eight to four. Winning a race in a round automatically advances a driver to the next round, while the remaining spots are filled based on points.

So, if three different playoff drivers win a race in the Round of 16, nine spots would be filled based on points and the four lowest point-getters are eliminated. Or, for another example, if two different playoff drivers win a race in the Round of 8, two spots in the Championship 4 would be filled based on points.

For the finale at Phoenix, the final four drivers will compete for the title with a simple format: whoever crosses the finish line first is the champion.

NASCAR playoff standings 2022

I touched on it above, but Elliott sits atop the playoff standings after winning the regular-season title and a series-best four races. He will be closely followed by Joey Logano, Ross Chastain and defending champion Kyle Larson.

Here are the full standings, with a breakdown of how each driver earned his points:

  1. Chase Elliott, 2040 points (four wins, five stages, 15 bonus points)
  2. Joey Logano, 2025 points (two wins, five stages, 10 bonus points)
  3. Ross Chastain, 2020 points (two wins, five stages, five bonus points)
  4. Kyle Larson, 2019 (two wins, three stages, six bonus points)
  5. William Byron, 2014 points (two wins, three stages, one bonus point)
  6. Denny Hamlin, 2013 points (two wins, three stages)
  7. Ryan Blaney, 2013 points (five stages, eight bonus points)
  8. Tyler Reddick, 2012 points (two wins, two stages)
  9. Kevin Harvick, 2012 points (two wins, two bonus points)
  10. Christopher Bell, 2011 points (one win, two stages, four bonus points)
  11. Kyle Busch, 2010 points (one win, two stages, three bonus points)
  12. Chase Briscoe, 2009 points (one win, four stages)
  13. Daniel Suarez, 2007 points (one win, two stages)
  14. Austin Cindric, 2006 points (one win, one stage)
  15. Alex Bowman, 2006 points (one win, one stage)
  16. Austin Dillon, 2005 points (one win)

Entering the Round of 16, Suarez, Cindric, Bowman and Dillon are in position to be eliminated if they can’t gain any ground in the next three races.

Who’s in the NASCAR Playoffs?

Sixteen drivers make the NASCAR Playoffs under the current format, which was adopted in 2014. NASCAR used a different playoff format from 2004 to 2013. Let’s take a look at the 2022 field, sorted by their playoff experience level:

  • Kevin Harvick, 16th playoff berth, one championship
  • Denny Hamlin, 16th playoff berth
  • Kyle Busch, 15th playoff berth, two championships
  • Joey Logano, ninth playoff berth, one championship
  • Chase Elliott, seventh playoff berth, one championship
  • Kyle Larson, sixth playoff berth, one championship
  • Ryan Blaney, sixth playoff berth
  • Alex Bowman, fifth playoff berth
  • Austin Dillon, fifth playoff berth
  • William Byron, fourth playoff berth
  • Christopher Bell, second playoff berth
  • Tyler Reddick, second playoff berth
  • Chase Briscoe, playoff debut
  • Ross Chastain, playoff debut
  • Austin Cindric, playoff debut
  • Daniel Suarez, playoff debut

When do the NASCAR Playoffs start?

There is no break between the regular season and playoffs, with the Round of 16 opener set for Sunday, Sept. 4, at Darlington Raceway. The “Cook Out Southern 500” will go green at 6 p.m. ET on USA Network and online through NBC Sports.


What is the NASCAR Playoffs schedule?

The NASCAR Playoffs is a 10-race grind, with no weeks off. Here’s the full schedule from Darlington through Phoenix, with all races broadcasted on NBC or USA Network:

Round of 16

  1. Darlington Raceway (Sept. 4, 6 p.m. ET, USA)
  2. Kansas Speedway (Sept. 11, 3 p.m. ET, USA)
  3. Bristol Motor Speedway (Sept. 17, 7:30 p.m. ET, USA)

Round of 12

  1. Texas Motor Speedway (Sept. 25, 3:30 p.m. ET, USA)
  2. Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 2, 2 p.m. ET, NBC)
  3. Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course (Oct. 9, 2 p.m. ET, NBC)

Round of 8

  1. Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Oct. 16, 2:30 p.m. ET, NBC)
  2. Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 23, 2:30 p.m. ET, NBC)
  3. Martinsville Speedway (Oct. 30, 2 p.m. ET, NBC)

Championship 4

  1. Phoenix Raceway (Nov. 6, 3 p.m. ET, NBC)

NASCAR Playoffs bracket 2022

March Madness is one of the country’s most popular sporting events because anyone can fill out a bracket, regardless of their college basketball knowledge. Now, you can do the same for NASCAR.

Here’s a look at the bracket you can fill out:

Playoff bracket
@NASCAR on Twitter

Why is Kurt Busch not in the playoffs?

Kurt Busch, driving for Michael Jordan’s 23XI Racing, won at Kansas Speedway in May.

That win would have locked him into the playoffs, but he sustained a concussion in a crash at Pocono in July. The 44-year-old veteran missed the final six races of the regular season, and he won’t return in time for the playoffs, so he forfeited his eligibility.

Xfinity Series driver Ty Gibbs, 19, has raced the No. 45 since the injury and he will continue to do so for as long as Busch is out.

Who missed the NASCAR playoffs?

There are 32 full-time Cup Series drivers, so 16 of them missed the playoffs: Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Erik Jones, Aric Almirola, Bubba Wallace, Chris Buescher, Justin Haley, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Cole Custer, Michael McDowell, Harrison Burton, Brad Keselowski, Ty Dillon, Todd Gilliland, Corey LaJoie and Cody Ware.


Busch obviously would’ve made the playoffs if he were healthy, but there were a number of other drivers who narrowly missed out.

Truex finished just three points behind Blaney for the 16th playoff spot. The 2017 Cup champion missed the playoffs for the first time since 2014, when he finished 24th in the standings. Similarly, Keselowski missed the playoffs for the first time since 2013 after a tough first season with Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing.

McDowell (10 top-10s), Jones (nine top-10s), Buescher (eight top-10s), Almirola (seven top-10s) and Wallace (six top-10s) were among the other top drivers to miss the postseason.

Even though these drivers didn’t make the playoffs, they will still compete in the final 10 races. They are all fighting to finish 17th in the standings, because each position they improve earns their team more money.