Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr are currently in the midst of one of their most consistent seasons yet. Both drivers are in the top five in points, Ryan Blaney is second and Truex Fourth. By all intents and purposes, both drivers are considered championship contenders. Unfortunately, more than likely one of these drivers will not make the playoffs this year. As we all know, if you win a race, attempt to qualify for each race (barring a NASCAR medical Waiver) and stay in the top-thirty, you automatically qualify for the playoffs. This creates a lot of saturation in the field, there are many drivers who win a race and find themselves in the playoffs only to exit after one round. We have seen an unprecedented amount of parity in this era of NASCAR as there have been 15 different winners. While it's fair to say "If Martin and Blaney wanted to make the playoffs they should have won a race like everyone else" to have the guy who is second in points not make the playoffs is asinine.
Another massive downside to this playoff format is how a lot of the time at the end of the season, the best driver doesn't win the championship. We saw it back in 2020, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick went on to win a combined 16 of the 36 races and only one of them were able to contend for a championship at Phoenix. While Denny Hamlin was able to make it, Harvick would have a mediocre two races in the round of 8 and was not able to make the championship race.
Many have asked, with the championship coming down to one race what is the point of having the other 35 races? This is the biggest question I have with the format that NASCAR has right now. The fact that we can see someone hypothetically win thirty-five races and still not win the championship is ludicrous.
I believe that yes, NASCAR needs to make some wholesale changes to this playoff format. Personally, I would have never changed the format that they had from 2004-2013. Yes there were flaws, Of course we saw teams try and manipulate the outcomes their teammates into the chase but honestly has that changed with this new format?
Back in 2015 at Talladega superspeedway, Kevin Harvick's engine was on the fritz. His chances of making the next round were slim to none. As the field was coming to take the green flag for the restart, Harvick decided to turn right and wreck the #6 car of Trevor Bayne triggering a massive pile-up that would take out the drivers on the outside of the cut-off line. Because of this move, he would race for a championship at Homestead a few weeks later. As long as there are cars on track, these drivers will find a way to gain the system.