NASCAR Playoff Trivia
by Tom Jensen October 11, 2023
With the 20th edition of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs at hand, time for some trivia tidbits to sharpen your skills.
This year's NASCAR’s Cup Series playoffs began at historic Darlington Raceway on September 3. Throughout most of its history, NASCAR had a simple way to calculate the champion: whoever amassed the most points over the entire season was crowned champion after the checkered flag fell on the final race of the season.
But in 2004, NASCAR decided to spice up the championship by creating a playoff-type system. This year marks the 20th edition of the playoffs, so it’s a good time to test your knowledge with some old-fashioned NASCAR playoff trivia. Test your knowledge of these 12 questions – without Googling the answers.
1. Where was the first NASCAR playoff race staged?
A. Bristol Motor Speedway
B. Talladega Superspeedway
C. New Hampshire Motor Speedway
D. Charlotte Motor Speedway
2. How many drivers qualified for the playoffs in 2004?
3. Who won the first playoff race in 2004?
A. Tony Stewart
B. Jeff Gordon
C. Jimmie Johnson
D. Kurt Busch
4. Who was the first team owner to win a championship in the playoff era?
A. Rick Hendrick
B. Jack Roush
C. Joe Gibbs
D. Roger Penske
5. Who is the only team owner to win a championship in the playoff era, but not yet be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame?
A. Barney Visser
B. Chip Ganassi
C. Teresa Earnhardt
D. Richard Childress
6. What year was the closest playoff finish?
7. How many championships has team owner Rick Hendrick (Class of 2017) won in the playoff era?
8. How many playoff races did Jimmie Johnson win in his career?
9. How many Manufacturers’ Championships has Chevrolet won in the playoff era?
10. Who won the most playoff races in a single season?
A. Jimmie Johnson
B. Tony Stewart
C. Jeff Gordon
D. Kyle Busch
11. How many different drivers won playoff championships for Joe Gibbs?
12. What was the first year 16 drivers made the playoffs?
1. Correct answer: C. The first NASCAR playoff race was the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway (now New Hampshire Motor Speedway) on September 19, 2004
2. Correct answer: B. The initial playoff field in 2004 was just 10 drivers, a much smaller group than the 16 playoff drivers we have today.
3. Correct answer: D. Kurt Busch used his victory in the first playoff race to launch his run to the first championship of the playoff era.
4. Correct answer: B. In 2004, team owner Jack Roush won his second consecutive Cup Series championship and the first of the playoff era.
5. Correct answer: A. Barney Visser, a Vietnam veteran who owned Denver-based Furniture Row, won the 2017 title with driver Martin Truex Jr. but shuttered his team following the 2018 season.
6. Correct answer: C. In 2011, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards ended up with exactly the same amount of points. But Stewart was awarded the championship because he won the tiebreaker for most race wins. Stewart won five races in 2011, all in the playoffs, while Edwards won just once.
7. Correct answer: B. Hendrick was the winning car owner for seven championships with Jimmie Johnson (2006-10, ’13, ’16), as well as Chase Elliott in 2020 and Kyle Larson in 2021. Prior to the introduction of the playoff system, Hendrick won four championships with Jeff Gordon (1995, ’97, ’98. ’01) and one with Terry Labonte (1996) giving him a record 14 owner championships.
8. Correct answer: C. A total of 30 of Johnson’s 83 career Cup Series races wins came in the playoffs. Impressively, Johnson won at least one playoff race in 13 consecutive seasons, from 2004-2017.
9. Correct answer: D. In the playoff era, Chevrolet won the first 12 Manufacturers’ Championships from 2004-15, and the last two in 2021-22. In between, Toyota won in 2016, ’17 and ’19, and Ford won 2018 and ’20.
10. Correct answer: B. While Jimmie Johnson holds the overall record for playoff race victories, Tony Stewart won five playoff races in 2011 after going winless in the 26-race regular season that year.
11. Correct answer: B. Joe Gibbs won championships in the playoff era with Tony Stewart in 2005 and Kyle Busch in 2015 and 2019. Prior to the introduction of the playoffs in 2004, Gibbs won titles with Stewart in 2002 and Bobby Labonte in 2000. Gibbs, Stewart and Labonte are all members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2020.
12. Correct answer: D. When NASCAR launched its playoff format in 2004, the field consisted of 10 drivers. After expanding to 12 drivers in 2007, NASCAR adopted the current 16-driver format in 2014, with Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing taking the title that year.