The NASCAR Playoffs is a playoff system used in NASCAR's three national series. From 2004 to 2015 it was exclusively used in NASCAR's top level, the Monster Energy Cup Series. In 2016, the playoff format was introduced in the Camping World Truck Series and Xfinity Series.
When Nextel took over NASCAR's premier sponsorship for the 2004 season, NASCAR made a major decision. First, five additional points were added for a race win. Second, a new formula for declaring a series champion based on a Hooters Pro Cup idea.
How it worksEdit
A cut was made after 26 teams, with the high ten drivers and teams plus ties, and anyone within 400 points of the leader placed in the Chase for the Championship (or simply "The Chase"). The Chase participants have their points increased to a level mathematically unattainable by anyone outside this field (roughly 1800 points ahead of the first driver outside of the Chase), which usually is 5,050 points for the leader, with other positions dropping by five points per position, with a limit of 5,000 points after ties and the 400 point cut. Race layouts remain the same and points are scored the same way in the final 10 races. Whoever leads in points after the 36th race is declared the Sprint Cup champion. A special award is also given to the highest finishing non-Chase driver to encourage continued competition among all drivers -- which usually includes the final position on the stage for the awards banquet.
Reason for the ChaseEdit
This playoff system was implemented primarily to make the points race more competitive late in the season, and indirectly, to increase television ratings during the NFL season, which starts around the same time as the Chase begins. Furthermore, the Chase also forces teams to perform at their best during all three stages of the season -- the first half of the regular season, the second half of the regular season, and the Chase.
Previously, the Cup champion may have been decided before the last race (or even several races before the end of the season) because it was mathematically impossible for any other driver to gain enough points to overtake the leader.
From its inception in 2004 until 2006, the Chase was shown on NBC and TNT. In 2007, ABC acquired the rights to air the Chase. For the 2009 season, all of the Chase races excluding Charlotte were moved to ABC's sister cable network ESPN, where it stayed until the 2014 season. Beginning in 2015, the Chase will be broadcast by NBC and NBCSN.
Development of ChaseEdit
Short track racing, the grassroots of NASCAR, began experimenting with ideas to help the entry-level racer. In 2001, the United Speed Alliance Racing organisation, sanctioning body of the Hooters ProCup, a late-model series, devised a five-race playoff system where the top teams in their Hooters ProCup North and Hooters ProCup South divisions would participate in a five-race playoff, the Four Champions, named for the four Hooters Racing staff members (including 1992 NASCAR champion Alan Kulwicki) and pilot killed in an April 1, 1993 plane crash in Blountville, Tennessee. The system organised the teams with starting points based on the team's performance in their division (division champions earn a bonus), and the teams would participate in a five-race playoff. The five races, added to the team's seeding points, would determine the winner. The 2001 version was four races, as one was cancelled because of the September 11th terrorist attacks; however, NASCAR watched as the ProCup's Four Champions became a success and drivers from the series began looking at NASCAR rides.