CONCORD, N.C. – The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs are here. Hendrick Motorsports drivers Kyle Larson and William Byron are in the 16-driver field, which marks the 18th straight season that the organization will have at least two drivers in the postseason field. That is the longest streak of all teams.
In the owner playoffs, the Nos. 5. 9 and 24 teams will battle for that crown.
PLAYOFF ANALYSIS: Larson | Byron | No. 9 team
Here is a quick primer on how NASCAR’s playoff format works.
HOW ARE THE PLAYOFFS STRUCTURED?
There are three rounds ahead of the Championship Race. A win by a playoff eligible automatically moves you through to the next round. Drivers will carry playoff points with them into every round by the Championship 4 and this will be added to their total after the field and points reset for each round. NASCAR's postseason is an elimination format with four drivers at the completion of each three-race round.
The Round of 16 consists of Darlington Raceway, Kansas Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway. The points are reset to 2,000 with each driver's playoff points added to their total. After Bristol, the four lowest playoff drivers on points (who haven’t won in that round) are eliminated.
The Round of 12 is made up of Texas Motor Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway and the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL. The points are reset to 3,000 with each driver's playoff points added to their total. After Charlotte, the four lowest playoff drivers on points (who haven’t won in that round) are eliminated.
The Round of 8 will take place at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway and Martinsville Speedway. The points are reset to 4,000 with each driver's playoff points added to their total. After Martinsville, the four lowest playoff drivers on points (who haven’t won in that round) are eliminated.
For the fourth straight year, the championship will be contested at Phoenix Raceway. The points are reset to 5,000 but playoff points are not added to the total in the final round. When the checkered flag flies in the desert, the top-finishing Championship 4 driver will take home the title. No stage points or playoff points are awarded to the Championship 4 drivers in the "winner-take-all" finale. In the elimination era (since 2014), the Cup Series title winner has won the final race to be crowned the champion.
WHO IS IN THE DRIVER PLAYOFFS?
Byron, Larson, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick, Bubba Wallace, Kyle Busch, Ross Chastain, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kevin Harvick, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Michael McDowell, Chris Buescher and Brad Keselowski.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE DRIVER AND OWNER CHAMPIONSHIPS?
The driver championship accounts for the driver’s results, while the owner championship is strictly related to the actual car number. For example, while Chase Elliott was injured earlier this season, Josh Berry and Jordan Taylor were helping the No. 9 accrue owner points. The owner championship carries every bit of importance to teams as the driver championship does.
This year sees the case of a car number being in the owner championship, but the driver not being in the driver championship. The No. 9 is in the owner championship and so Elliott will be battling to advance his team through that (much like he would if he was in the driver championship). This is not the first time in recent history that Hendrick Motorsports had one of its entries in one postseason field, but not the other. In 2022, Kyle Larson did not advance out of the Round of 12 in the driver playoffs, but the No. 5 car did advance to the Round of 8. He went on to win at Homestead-Miami Speedway and reached the Championship 4 for the owner playoffs.
The respective playoff fields are the same except the No. 9 team made the owner playoffs and Bubba Wallace is in the driver playoffs. The No. 9 team starts the owner playoffs as the 16th in the standings at 2,001 points.
RELATED: No. 9 team reaches owner playoffs
WHAT HAPPENS TO NON-PLAYOFF DRIVERS?
Non-playoff drivers still compete in the final 10 races. In last year’s 10-race playoffs, all three races in the opening Round of 16 were won by non-playoff drivers.
WHAT ARE PLAYOFF POINTS AND HOW ARE THEY EARNED?
Playoff points are collected throughout the regular season and in the first three rounds of the playoffs via stage wins and race wins. Drivers in the top 10 of the standings after the regular-season finale at Daytona International Speedway earn playoff points based on their spot in the standings. The regular-season champion receives a bonus of 15 playoff points and the driver second in the standings gets 10 playoff points. The drivers that finish third through 10th in the regular-season standings receive as many as eight playoff points or as little as one playoff point (on a sliding scale) based on their position in the standings. Playoff points carry over in each of the first three rounds but not to the title race.
HOW MANY CUP SERIES CHAMPIONSHIPS DOES HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS HAVE?
Hendrick Motorsports has 14 Cup Series titles among five drivers. Jimmie Johnson won a record-tying seven titles (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013 and 2016), Jeff Gordon won four (1995, 1997, 1998 and 2001), while Terry Labonte (1996), Elliott (2020) and Larson (2021) each have one.
PHOTOS: See every NASCAR Cup Series championship for Hendrick Motorsports All of
Johnson's titles and the titles of Elliott and Larson came in the playoff era (since 2004). Johnson's last championship and those of Elliott and Larson were earned in the elimination-format style of the playoffs (since 2014).