There have already been 14 different winners in the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season, and there are six races remaining before the playoffs. What happens if there are more than 16 winners?
The win was Bell’s first of the 2022 season, and it made him the 14th different winner through the season’s first 20 races.
Because there are still six regular season races remaining on the schedule before the beginning of the four-round, 10-race postseason, there is still a very good possibility that the regular season will see more than 16 different winners.
And there are 16 playoff spots regardless of how many winners there are.
There are still two road course races remaining on the regular season schedule at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and Watkins Glen International, and the season’s first three road course races were won by drivers who had never previously won in the Cup Series.
And then, of course, the regular season finale is scheduled to take place at Daytona International Speedway, which is widely considered a “wild card” track due to the nature of superspeedway racing.
While the playoff format is widely considered a “win and in” format, what happens if there are actually more than 16 different winners?
The 2022 season could very well expose the “win and in” myth, and Bell’s win moves us one winner closer to 16. The drivers who have won more than once are locked in, as the 16 playoff spots are officially awarded to the regular season champion and the 15 drivers who rank next highest in the wins category.
Because the regular season features 26 races, there can be no more than 13 multi-race winners, meaning no multi-race winner can finish outside of the top 15 in the wins category.
As for the single-race winners, however, they are not completely safe. If there are more than 16 different regular season race winners, points among single-race winners determine which single-race winners fill the playoff field and which ones are left out.
Let’s look at a brief example.
Let’s say that the regular season ends with 18 different winners, including one driver who has won three races, six drivers who have won two races, and 11 drivers who have won one race.
Assuming that the regular season champion is one of the 18 winners, then there would be two winners who fail to qualify for the postseason, and those two drivers would be the two single-race winners who rank lowest in the point standings.
In the event that the regular season champion happens to be a non-winner, then there would be three winners who fail to qualify for the postseason: the three single-race winners who rank lowest in the point standings.
Right now, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe sits in the lowest position in the point standings among nine single-race winners (five drivers have won more than once). He sits in 18th place. Will his win at Phoenix Raceway, the first win of his Cup Series career, back in March be enough to secure him his first NASCAR Cup Series playoff spot?