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Do Talladega and a Road Course Belong in the Same Playoff Round?

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Joshua Lipowski

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This weekend, the NASCAR Cup Series makes its trek to the Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Bank of Americal ROVAL 400 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL. It is a wild card race that follows up another wild card race in Talladega Superspeedway. It raises the question, do these two races belong in the same Playoff round? Let’s take a look at both sides of this argument.

Why They Do

NASCAR fans love chaos, and that is exactly what this points format was designed to create. If that is the case, then why not have a round that allows wild card races to occur? It allows for cool and fun things to happen that you did not expect.

It also makes sense for there to be Talladega and a road course race in the Playoffs. Superspeedway racing and road course racing are a part of the NASCAR schedule, and they should have representation in the Playoffs.

On top of that, including these races in a single round means that those “wild card” drivers who bank on their success in races like road courses and superspeedways need to get themselves into the Round of 12 to work their way into Championship contention. They cannot bank on having one race in each round to hone in on. Rather, they have to be successful on other types of tracks in other rounds if they want to compete.

Putting these races in the Round of 12 forces these “Wild Card” drivers to work their way through one round to get to the unique tracks that suit them. Examples of this in 2023 are Michael McDowell and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. who got in based on wins at a road course and a superspeedway. However, they could not make it through Round One, so, when the tracks suited them best in the Round of 12, they were unable to take advantage.

There is an argument to be made that putting these race tracks back-to-back makes for a more fair competition. It also creates an unpredictable round, so, why not have both races in the same round?

Why They Do Not

Look, the current Playoff format already is chaotic as it is. The only way to make it more fair for competition is to not allow for wild card races to be in such critical situations. Having an entire round with two wild cars races back-to-back along with one wild card race being an elimination race just does not look good.

It makes the Playoff format look less legitimate because it truly looks like NASCAR is trying to go all-out for entertaining fans rather than fair competition. Fair competition needs to be more highly emphasized in how the schedule is constructed.

Yes, there is an argument to be made about both types of races being somewhere in the Playoffs. However, they should both be split up, and they should both be on less prominent dates on the Playoff schedule. They cannot be back-to-back in the same round.

Imagine if someone who is the best driver throughout the year gets wrecked out at Talladega in something that is not his fault, then he gets knocked out by someone who is in the Playoffs only because of their road course performance the next week. That can be tough to swallow, and it makes NASCAR look bad if their best driver is knocked out of the Playoffs.

Sure, it may be chaotic and fun to watch. However, is it fair competition in the way that sports is supposed to be?

NASCAR will release their 2024 schedule hopefully this week. Even when they do, this question could still be worthwhile to discuss depending on how the Playoffs work out.

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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