How Daniel Hemric Exposed the Biggest Flaw in NASCAR Playoff Format at Phoenix

Published 11/08/2021, 9:22 AM EST
Nov 6, 2021; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Xfinity Series driver Daniel Hemric (18) beats Xfinity Series driver Austin Cindric (22) to the finish line to win the Xfinity Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports


The manner in which the NASCAR Xfinity Series in Phoenix finished deservedly received top of the page, bold headlines. But there was one other thing sitting above that headline, a mention of the now bizarre career of winner Daniel Hemric.

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The Joe Gibbs driver was winless in 207 starts in his NASCAR career prior to his first win. And the first win in his 208th career start rewarded him with a championship.

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Daniel Hemric almost broke the system

Hemric’s is a strangely astonishing story. But it could’ve gotten even more strange because there was a scenario in which Hemric could’ve been crowned the champion without even taking the chequered flag.

This would’ve resulted in him winning the championship without a single race win to his name.

BROOKLYN, MI – AUGUST 14: Daniel Hemric, driver of the #14 California Clean Power Chevrolet, prepares to drive during practice for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Careers for Veterans 200 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)

Now, as strange and fascinating as these facts and headlines are, the NASCAR Community is once again reminded of the flaws of the playoff system and the format.

To put it in a nutshell, in a given season, drivers are awarded points based on their race results. Then the top-scoring drivers progressively qualify into smaller and smaller groups until the last race.

And in the last round, all the previously earned points and results become meaningless as the title is awarded to the one who finishes first, not in the race but among the Last 4.

Even though the degree depends, one cannot ignore the fact that the current format is problematic in many ways.

Kyle Larson survives a Kevin Harvick scare

Kyle Larson put in a season in which he dominated consistently. The Hendrick driver won 10 races, equalling and breaking many records along the way. However, he could very well have walked empty-handed if any of his three rivals had finished above him.

Had that happened, Larson would’ve experienced what Kevin Harvick did just a year before.

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He would’ve become the second driver in as many years, to dominate an entire season, coincidentally with 9 race wins each and then see it all account for nothing when it really matters.

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To be on the wrong end of the format is not only tough, but unfair. Hopefully, the extremely unusual shape of Daniel Hemric’s career and the potential outcomes of Cup Series champion Kyle Larson are reason enough to make NASCAR reconsider the current format.

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Shaharyar

224 articles

Shaharyar is a Formula 1 & NASCAR writer at EssentiallySports. A Graduate in Journalism from Amity University, he has been a passionate follower of motorsports for the better part of the decade. A Max Verstappen and Ferrari supporter, he dreams of a pairing of the two in the future.

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