At the end of Sunday’s Daytona 500, there will most likely already be a driver in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. How, you ask, could someone be in the postseason playoffs after the first event of the year? Thank NASCAR’s complicated new championship format, which we’re here to help simplify.
NASCAR used to be, simply, a race from start to finish. Cautions came out when cars wrecked, and the drivers who led laps and finished the highest got the most championship points at the end of the race. That’s not how things are anymore.
Nowadays, NASCAR races have various segments like hockey or football. Drivers get certain amounts of points for how they run at the end of those segments and the race as a whole. A win automatically puts a driver in the postseason playoffs, and points fill in leftover spots. Then, NASCAR uses knockout rounds to decide the champion—which a single race at the end of the season ultimately decides.
That all sounds like it makes you want to bang your head on a table, right? The video above is a basic explainer on the NASCAR season and how to win a title, and it should help you sort some of this out. If you want finer details on how modern NASCAR works, check the “Recommended Stories” box below.