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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

The In-Season Tournament Trend: NASCAR Latest League to Create One

  • The 2025 Cup Series schedule will feature a five-race knockout bracket.
  • One driver will win a $1 million prize.
Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

American sports fans love a bracket, and NASCAR has taken note. 

The 2025 NASCAR Cup Series schedule will include a five-race in-season tournament that will see 32 drivers compete for a $1 million prize. Here’s how it will work: In the middle portion of the season, overall performance in three yet-to-be-determined races will seed drivers 1 through 32 for the tournament, meaning all of the sport’s top stars, and then some, should qualify. The ensuing five races will then pit drivers head-to-head based on their seeding, with the higher-finishing driver in each race advancing to the next round. 

Join the Club

With the move, NASCAR becomes just the latest league to hop on the growing trend of repurposing regular-season games and adding meaningful competition outside of the playoffs.

  • WNBA: Commissioner’s Cup, launched in 2021
  • MLS and Mexico’s Liga MX: Leagues Cup, launched in 2023
  • NBA: In-Season Tournament, launched in 2023
  • NASCAR: Will launch its in-season tournament in 2025

From Court to Track

For NASCAR, the move comes just months after the NBA found rousing success with the debut of its own in-season tournament. Both viewership and attendance soared for regular-season games in November as teams battled in the group stage before a knockout round culminated in a final four in Las Vegas. The league wasted no time selling the naming rights to its In-Season Tournament and rebranding it as the Emirates NBA Cup.

NASCAR’s in-season evolution coincides with the commencement of new $7.7 billion media-rights deals that will add Amazon Prime Video and TNT Sports, the latter of which broadcast the NBA’s In-Season Tournament along with ESPN, as league broadcast partners. Prime Video will air the seeding races of the in-season tournament, while TNT will get the five knockout races. 

That’s a nice boost for the incoming media companies, especially as NASCAR continues to figure out exactly which races each of its four Cup Series broadcasters will air. “Sometimes you’re able to deliver more to one partner versus another in one part of the year,” NASCAR senior vice president of media and productions Brian Herbst previously told Front Office Sports. “But you want to make sure that you do right by everybody over the course of the term of the partnership.”

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