NASCAR’s Playoff format is flawed.
Not just a minor flaw but a massive flaw that needs to be addressed. When your sport boasts about rewarding drivers for winning races your championship format has to allow that. Instead the playoffs are formatted to eliminate a driver for a bad race. It’s asinine and now 3 out of the last 4 years with this format the favorite is eliminated before Homestead.
Sunday at Kansas saw Kyle Larson’s hopes of winning the championship in Homestead come to an end. Larson was viewed as the last hope to stop Martin Truex Jr. for the championship. Now Larson is out of the playoffs because of an engine failure. He had finishes of 10th, 13th, and then 39th. NASCAR said winning regular season races and stages would benefit you. So Larson won 4 races and 14 stages and has 8 second place finishes, eliminated. Now one of the locks for Homestead is gone.
Look at 2016 when Truex was eliminated in this same round. He won twice in the playoffs, still got eliminated. Remember this was pre-stage point wins. Still though, it’s insane that Truex was eliminated after being the best driver all season.
Look at 2014 when Gordon got eliminated in the last round. He won in the playoffs. He had TWO second place finishes and a 29th place finish in the last round of the playoffs. Still got eliminated even though he was consistently the fastest car all season with Harvick. All because of a stupid move by Brad Keselowski.
Go back to last season in the truck series. William Byron won SEVEN races including one in the playoffs before he got eliminated. A blown engine at Phoenix cost him a chance at a title. A nearly slam dunk title when you consider Byron won the race at Homstead the next week.
It’s A Flawed System
Someone from NASCAR tweeted “sports are unpredictable” after Larson went out. As if that’s some sort of justification for NASCAR’s flawed system and branding. It really isn’t about winning, it’s about surviving. Which is what the championship has always been about. If it’s about survival then build your branding about that. Because it isn’t about winning unless you’re Truex level of dominant on 1.5 mile tracks.
NASCAR’s Playoffs having elimination rounds essentially hurts the playoffs. Larson could still win the championship if drivers weren’t eliminated. He would only have been 25ish points out of the championship. Same goes for every other driver eliminated in the examples above.
It’s hard to get behind the “format rewards winning” montra and “regular season matters” when it’s just not true. It’s only true to an extent but not the extent everyone was sold on.
Get rid of the elimination rounds. Go back to the chase format. 10 races, points are reset, you get your bonus points for winning races and stages and let them have at it. Not that difficult.
Also, Chase Elliott can win this championship without ever winning a race. Embrace the chaos, I guess.
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