NASCAR: William Byron hasn’t clinched a playoff berth

William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)
William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images) /

William Byron may have won Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but he still isn’t locked into the 2022 playoffs.

Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron earned the third victory of his NASCAR Cup Series career and his first win in over a year by winning the first race at the newly repaved and reconfigured Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday afternoon.

The driver of the #24 Chevrolet led a race-high 111 of the 325 laps around the four-turn, 1.54-mile (2.478-kilometer) high-banked oval in Hampton, Georgia en route to becoming the fifth different winner in five races so far this year.

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However, what Byron has not yet done is clinch a spot in the playoffs. While the playoff format is often referred to as a “win and in” format and it has historically been just that, this is not a completely accurate description of it.

With 26 regular season races and just 16 playoff spots, there is a possibility that there will be more race winners than playoff spots.

With five winners through five races, that possibility has gotten a bit larger. And it’s not just the fact that five different drivers have won; it’s the fact that you can literally list well over a dozen other drivers who could have easily been to victory lane through the first five races but haven’t yet managed to make that trip.

The Gen 7 car seems to have leveled the playing field to an extent that not many could have anticipated, and the parity has been on full display through five exciting events.

So how, exactly, are the playoff spots determined?

The 16 playoff spots go to the driver who ranks highest in points, whether he wins any races or not, and the next 15 drivers who rank highest in wins, provided they rank inside the top 30 in points.

If there are more than 15 other winners, the tiebreaker among the single-race winners is points. If there aren’t, the remaining spots are filled by the non-winner(s) with the most points.

So at this point in the season, winning twice is the only way to lock up a playoff berth, since there are no scenarios which can produce more than 13 multi-race winners in the regular season.

This, of course, assumes that any multi-race winner remains in the top 30 in the point standings. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s a relatively safe assumption when you consider the fact that there are only 32 full-time drivers.

Aside from Byron, the drivers who have won this year include two of his teammates, Kyle Larson (Auto Club Speedway) and Alex Bowman (Las Vegas Motor Speedway), as well as Team Penske’s Austin Cindric (Daytona International Speedway) and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe (Phoenix Raceway).

Briscoe leads the five winners in third place in the point standings ahead of Byron in fourth, Bowman in ninth, Larson in 12th, and Cindric in 17th.

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Will the 2022 season’s sixth race produce a sixth different winner? This race, the EchoPark Texas Grand Prix, is set to be broadcast live on Fox from Circuit of the Americas beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET this Sunday, March 27. Don’t forget to start your free trial of FuboTV today!