NASCAR stands for the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. It was founded in 1948 in Daytona Beach, Florida, to capitalise on the growing popularity of racing ordinary, factory-produced (or “stock”) cars.
The NASCAR Cup Series – which began a year later – is the highest level of competition within the sport.
Here we explain more about the competition and look ahead to the 2022 season.
How does the NASCAR Cup Series work?
The series consists of 36 races between February and November each year. The first 26 races form the regular season, with the play-offs accounting for the remaining 10.
The play-offs consist of three rounds of three races leading up to the championship race, with four drivers being eliminated in each round.
How does a NASCAR race work?
Each race features up to 40 drivers, who compete to win the race and earn points based on their finishing position. Races typically take place on oval circuits and are divided into three stages.
The top 10 finishers in each stage are awarded points, with the winner receiving an additional bonus point. At the end of a race, drivers are awarded more points, with the winner also receiving five play-off points.
At the end of the regular season, the driver at the top of the standings receives an extra 15 bonus points.
How do the NASCAR play-offs work?
At the end of the regular season, 16 drivers with the most race wins qualify for the NASCAR play-offs, with most points used as a tie-breaker. Winning a regular-season race usually guarantees qualification for the play-offs as fewer than 16 drivers will do so.
Drivers’ points tallies are reset to a standard starting value for each round, with their accumulated bonus points then added. Race and bonus points are awarded as normal during the play-offs, with the four lowest-scoring drivers eliminated at the end of each stage.
There are no bonus points awarded in the final race – the Championship 4 – whoever finishes first is declared that season’s champion.
What could happen in the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series?
No driver has won a greater share of their races in the last three seasons than 2021 champion Kyle Larson, who has 11 wins from 76 attempts (14.5%), so he will surely be among the challengers again.
Veteran driver Denny Hamlin has been almost as successful though with a 13.9% win rate and has reached the Championship 4 in each of his last three seasons.
It would also be premature to write off 2014 champion Kevin Harvick – one of the oldest competitors at 46. He has finished in the top 10 in more than seven out of every 10 races he has entered in the last three seasons: the best rate of any current driver.
Where do NASCAR champions shine?
The Dixie Vodka 400 looks set to be the most reliable predictor of the 2022 NASCAR drivers’ title, as six of the 10 races held at the Homestead-Miami Speedway in the last decade have been won by that season’s eventual champion. However, that race is the 34th of the season and takes place as part of the Round of 8 in October.
An earlier indicator could be the Coca-Cola 600 in May, as this takes place at the Charlotte Motor Speedway: the only other track to have seen the season’s top driver prevail at least a third of the time (with seven wins out of 21). It also hosts the Bank of America Roval 400: the last race in the Round of 12.
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