In a performance industry where the best drivers and automotive minds alike seek whatever advantage they can, the competitive balance of NASCAR can vary greatly from year to year. Some seasons are dominated by a single driver or a select group of drivers, while others feature a more level playing field and see the gates to Victory Lane swung wide open for any and all in the field.
In the NASCAR Cup Series, the 2021 regular season fell into the latter category. From the time the season began with an upset victory in the Daytona 500, the Cup Series has seen an exceptional level of parity, with a total of 15 different drivers having visited Victory Lane. Three races into the NASCAR playoffs, the field has been whittled from 16 drivers down to 12. Joe Gibbs racing saw two of its three drivers -- Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin -- reach victory lane to advance automatically, while Kyle Larson picked up his sixth win of the season to move on to the round of 12. They're joined by a host of former Cup series champs still vying for the title in 2021 after Kurt Busch, Tyler Reddick, Aric Almirola and Michael McDowell saw their title dreams for this season come to an end.
The round of 12 has three races -- Las Vegas, Talladega and the Charlotte Roval -- before the playoff field is trimmed to eight drivers by mid-October.
All races can be streamed on fuboTV (try for free)
NASCAR Cup Series playoffs standings (round of 12)
1. #5 - Kyle Larson (3,059 pts)
2. #19 - Martin Truex Jr. (3,029 pts)
3. #12 - Ryan Blaney (3,024 pts)
4. #11 - Denny Hamlin (3,024 pts)
5. #18 - Kyle Busch (3,022 pts)
6. #9 - Chase Elliott (3,021 pts)
7. #48 - Alex Bowman (3,015 pts)
8. #24 - William Byron (3,014 pts)
9. #22 - Joey Logano (3,013 pts)
10. #2 - Brad Keselowski (3,008 pts)
11. #20 - Christopher Bell (3,005 pts)
12. #4 - Kevin Harvick (3,002 pts)
NASCAR Cup Series playoffs Schedule
Round of 16
- Sunday, September 5: Cook-Out Southern 500 - Darlington Raceway - Winner: Denny Hamlin
- Saturday, September 11: Salute to American Heroes 400 - Richmond Raceway - Winner: Martin Truex Jr.
- Saturday, September 18: Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race - Bristol Motor Speedway - Winner: Kyle Larson
Round of 12
- Sunday, September 26: South Point 400 - Las Vegas Motor Speedway | 7:30 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN
- Sunday, October 3: YellaWood 500 - Talladega Superspeedway | 2 p.m. ET | TV: NBC
- Sunday, October 10: Bank of America ROVAL 400 - Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval | 2 p.m. ET | TV: NBC
Round of 8
- Sunday, October 17: Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 - Texas Motor Speedway | 2 p.m. ET | TV: NBC
- Sunday, October 24: Hollywood Casino 400 - Kansas Speedway | 3 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN
- Sunday, October 31: Xfinity 500 - Martinsville Speedway | 2 p.m. ET | TV: NBC
Sunday, November 7: Season Finale 500 - Phoenix Raceway | 3 p.m. ET | TV: NBC