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The NASCAR Cup Series season’s schedule is made up of 36-races that is actually divided into two entirely different parts.

The sport’s regular season consist of the first 26 races on the schedule and the primary purpose is to reduce the eligible list of drivers to sixteen that will advance to the playoff portion of the schedule that makes up the final ten races of the season.

Every race on the schedule regardless of where it falls is held under the same guidelines with the same number of points being awarded but the kind of racing that we see is somewhat dictated by the race being either a regular season race or a playoff race.

Regardless of where a race falls on the schedule, the entire field knows that if a win is not within a driver’s grasp then it is his job to collect as many points as possible.

Winning is now rewarded more than ever in the sport as it is the surest and fastest way for a driver to advance into the playoff round of the schedule with the opportunity to run for the title.

There has never been sixteen different winners in the series since the present day point system was introduced so even though it is not one of the most popular aspect of the sports, there is still plenty of points racing that takes place at each stop of the schedule.

The format that is in place has each race being divided up into three segments (Charlotte’s Coca-Cola has 4) dictates that as soon as the green flag waves to begin a race, a driver must start thinking about the points that are going to be awarded at the end of the first segment.

The points awarded at the end of the first two segments pale when compared to the amount of points awarded once the checkered flag has waved but when you add all of those up over the 26-race regular season it easy to see just how important those are every week. These are the points that can get a driver not only in the playoff round but could be the points that could win him the title at season’s end.

Drivers who win either Stage 1 or Stage 2 of each race earn 10 race points that is added to their race total at the end of the race. They also earn an additional bonus point that carries over with them if they advance into the playoff round.

These points become so important and you only have to look back to last season when bonus points played such a huge role in eventual series title holder Kyle Busch advancing through the rounds of the playoffs.

The second place finisher earns nine points, third place earns eight points, etc., down to one point for 10th place.

This season even though he has yet to win a race, Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott has been a force to reckon with during the early stages of both Daytona and Las Vegas as he has totaled 24 stage points and three bonus points. He Stage points has helped him into sixth place in the standings, 20 points behind Ryan Blaney in first.

PIT NOTES: The biggest news coming out of the Cup Series this week was the sight of Ryan Newman leaving the Halifax Medical Center in Daytona holding the hands of his two daughters.

Newman who was critically injured near the finish line of the Daytona 500 gave a statement before the Sunday’s race at Las Vegas saying that he did sustain a head injury but that he did not have any damage to his internal organs or broken bones.

He went on to say that he was looking forward to returning behind the wheel of his Roush Fenway Ford.

There is no timetable for his return as Ross Chastain filled in for him at Las Vegas and is expected to continue in that capacity until Newman’s return later this season.

Steve Mickey writes about NASCAR for HD Media.