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The 5 Craziest Playoff Cut-off Races of All Time

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Joshua Lipowski

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The NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs have created some of the sport's craziest moments towards the end of the regular season. The Playoff cut-off race, in its' multiple different forms and locations, always seems to deliver. What are the five craziest of all time?

The NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs have created some of the sport’s craziest moments towards the end of the regular season. The Playoff cut-off race, in its’ multiple different forms and locations, always seems to deliver. What are the five craziest of all time?

5. 2020 Coke Zero Sugar 400: Byron’s First win and DiBenedetto Bests 7-Time

The finale of the 2020 NASCAR Regular Season was a battle between NASCAR’s old guard and new guard. William Byron, Jimmie Johnson (in his retirement season), and Matt Dibenedetto were battling for the final Playoff spot. Johnson and Dibenedetto were caught up in a late crash, but Dibenedetto found a way to finish a few spots ahead of Johnson. Byron, meanwhile, snaked through the carnage to take his first career Cup Series win.

4. 2006 Chevy Rock and Roll 400: Defending Champion Left Out

Heading into the 2006 Chevy Rock and Roll 400 at Richmond, everyone from 3rd to 11th in points was in position to either get in or be left out of the Playoffs. Kasey Kahne was the driver in 11th, and he would finish third to get in by 16 points. Big names like Jeff Gordon had difficult days, but it was defending Cup Series Champion Tony Stewart who finished a disappointing 18th to fall out of the Playoffs.

3. 2004 Chevy Rock and Roll 400: The Inaugural Cut-off Race

Heading into the final regular season race in 2004, drivers between eighth and 13th were only separated by 76 points. Drivers like Mark Martin and Kasey Kahne had major trouble as Jeremy Mayfield drove the race of his life. Mayfield would lead the most laps and win as he took Kasey Kahne out of the Playoffs with Martin and Ryan Newman both joining Mayfield as the three to make it in out of that group of six drivers.

2. 2011 Federated Auto Parts 400: Big Stars Fighting for their Playoff Lives

The 2011 Chase cutoff race featured a new format that saw stars Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. fighting for their Playoff lives. Drivers both in and out of the Playoff chase were getting their tempers tested on this night in a race that features 15 caution flags. Despite being in a beat-up car that was involved in two accidents, Earnhardt Jr. found a way to get into the Playoffs with a 16th place finish.

1. 2012 Federated Auto Parts 400: Jeff Gordon vs Kyle Busch

After a horrendous start to the regular season, Jeff Gordon was in position to get into the Playoffs if he could beat Kyle Busch for the final wild card spot. Gordon went on a tear late in the race as Busch faded, and Gordon would finish an impressive second to get into the Playoffs. Potentially one of the most incredible drives of Gordon’s storied career.

Will this weekend’s race at Daytona match any of these races on this list? We will have to see, but it has a lot of races to beat.

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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