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What happens if more than 16 drivers qualify for the NASCAR playoffs?

With six races left before the playoffs and 14 different winners already in the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season, what happens if more than 16 drivers qualify?

Update:
With six races left before the playoffs and 14 different winners already in the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season, what happens if more than 16 drivers qualify?
Logan RielyAFP

With the NASCAR 2022 regular season continuing to come about, six regular season races remain on the schedule before this year’s four-round, 10-race playoffs get underway.

There are still two road course races remaining in the regular season, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and Watkins Glen International. And while drivers who won the season’s first three races had their first victories ever in the Cup Series, there are 16 playoff spots no matter how many winners there are.

These spots are officially awarded to the regular season champion, plus the 15 drivers who rank next highest in the wins category, which locks in the drivers who have won more than once. In general, “win and you’re in” is the most applicable saying at the NASCAR playoffs.

However, what happens when there are more Cup winners than available playoff spots is something NASCAR fans and officials have never had to consider since 2014. So what would things look like for 16+ winners?

What happens if more than 16 drivers qualify for the NASCAR playoffs?

Before we imagine a scenario, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. The winner of the regular-season is guaranteed a playoff spot with or without a win.
  2. If the winner of the regular-season does not have a win, and there are 16 different winners, the race winner with the fewest regular-season points would miss making the playoffs.
  3. Drivers have to be in the top 30 in the regular-season attempting to qualify for every race in order to have a chance to make the playoffs (unless they have a waiver from NASCAR like Kurt Busch’s current one)

That all being said, let’s say there are 17 different winners at the end of the regular season, including the champion of the regular season. What the playoff field would consist of here would be the 16 drivers with the most wins.

Therefore, drivers with at least two wins are probably very safe. One-win drivers with the most regular-season points would then complete the playoff field.

Let’s say there are five playoff spots left to fill and six one-win drivers. In that case, the five with the most regular-season points would make the playoffs, while the one with the fewest would not make the cut.

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