Race Weekend Central

Let’s Make the Mid-Season Tourney Meaningful

So the 2025 NASCAR Cup Series season is going to have a mid-season tournament.  Thirty-two drivers are going to be eligible, each racing their way in based on finishes in the three previous races. Obviously this will be the majority of the charter teams and predominantly the charter teams who are not having catastrophically bad seasons.

The winner of this race will win a million dollars. As our own Brad Harrison pointed out this week in Five Points to Ponder, $1 million isn’t exactly what it used to be.

If this race was for Late Models or Super Late Models, a million dollars might be a really big story. For modern Cup Series drivers, the vast majority are making millions per year. Winning a single million isn’t going to move their needle very much.

See also
Dropping the Hammer: Bring on the Tourney

Now, if you want to move anyone’s needle, hit their own wallet. Thirty-two drivers, let’s put up $500,000 per driver of their own money. Secondly, make the tournament winner-take-all. You’ll have people making very aggressive moves to advance rounds in order to keep their shot at the big pay day alive.

Another nice perk would be a guaranteed playoff spot. The odds are that the driver who wins the tournament is probably already going to have a win before the final 10 races, but it would give a very big incentive to someone who doesn’t have a win and is in the final four of the tourney.

If you really want to make something a very big carrot, let’s make the tourney champion an automatic member of the Championship 4. Many people will say that is a little too much of a reward for a tourney winner in the middle of the year, but it is also a very nice reward for someone who proved they were the best in the series at the season’s mid-point.

One final extra bonus that would seem like an obvious benefit for the winner is a guaranteed spot in the 2026 tournament. Knowing that the winner is probably going to qualify already for the next year, it isn’t a huge gamble for the series to offer it, but it does draw attention and gives the talking heads something else to talk about.

See also
Happy Hour: Is It Time to Change the All-Star Race Prize?

The strategy involved in this five-race tournament and what extent teams are willing to go to in order to advance and/or prevent others from advancing is a discussion that could last from now until the start of the tournament next year. The bottom line is that drivers very well can ruin someone’s chance of winning the tournament, or even advancing rounds, whether they are competing directly against another driver, his teammate or someone in another bracket. A driver winning his pairing could take out a hot driver in another bracket so that a less formidable opponent advances.

One thing’s for sure, this tournament is going to be a very cool addition to the heat of the dog days of summer. A couple of tweaks that would add incentives and pressure to winning the whole event would make it even more exciting. If fans put the pressure on now, and keep it on until the final rules are announced, we just might end up with a storyline that has the entire sports world buzzing — and not just the auto racing portion of it.

About the author

What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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Christopher

It would seem the people most excited about this ridiculous tournament gimmick are writers.

Bill B

I thought the same thing when I read this article earlier today.

Who gives a shit about this contrived, pointless attempt to make something that should be exciting on it’s own more exciting.

Basically it’s going to give the talking heads in the booth something else to talk about other than the race they are supposed to be covering.

Christopher

Very true. NASCAR is desperate, and the broadcasters are nothing more than shills for the France family and whatever asinine scheme the brain dead fools at NASCAR come up with.

CCColorado

I hate to bag on the writer of this article, but, man, This is another stupid attempt by NASCAR to be like the stick and ball sports. STOP!! It’s not a “ very cool addition” just the opposite.
Also agree on the shill comment. Do any writers have the Klackers to say anything bad? The superb Indy Car reporter, Robin Miller, must be rolling over in his grave with the current crop of so called writers.
Long gone are the days of Inside Winston Cup, with Schrader, Mikey and Benson and Bestwick trying to corral the boys… but they were willing to call out drivers, place blame on accidents, etc.
Apologies for the long post!

Christopher

No apologies required. One of the few writers that used to criticize NASCAR in any meaningful way was Matt Weaver, who at one time used to write for Autoweek, Car & Driver and now can be found at Sportsnaut. But even he seems to have toned it down over the years. None of today’s writers have the cojones of the late David Poole, who was reportedly despised by many drivers for his unrelenting, no-favorites reporting style. And I seem to remember during the infamous Brickyard 400 tire debacle that Dale Jarrett, at that time working the booth for ESPN, I believe, after bitterly criticizing the fiasco live on air, disappeared for a few years after that (Thou Shall Not Criticize NASCAR). NASCAR wants Dave Moody types, who rah rah every crackpot idea NASCAR comes up with (remember NASCAR getting rid of merch trailers on the midway and making everyone go in one big tent? Another Brian France-era idea that went straight in the toilet and that Moody publicly endorsed).

Jeremy

Let’s make this even more gimmicky and game-showish… The winner of this “tournament” gets to choose TWO competitors to be REMOVED and INELIGIBLE for The Chase! In addition, the winner of this “tournament” receives automatic placement in the “Final Four” to run for the Championship! One final incentive (and possibly the most motivating of them all!) – the “tournament” winner gets to decide what hairstyle and facial hair must be worn by all other drivers for the remainder of the season!

Why not? Makes as much sense as anything else NA$CAR has done in the last 20 years.

DoninAjax

Don’t forget the cowboy hat. And bring back Digger to take cardboard pictures with the “winner”.

Wildcatsfan2016

Oh that’s a great idea Jeremy. A NASCAR version of Survivor.

old fan

But the drivers who are removed can be put back in the playoffs via a fan-vote, or the announcers can put a driver back in using an Instant Save.

Shayne

Stage racing meets random playoffs during the season where another playoff, depending on who won their playoffs to make the playoffs at the end. Got it.

NASCAR and online betting = a match made in heaven.

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