NASCAR to launch 32-driver in-season tournament

NASCAR to launch 32-driver in-season tournament

NASCAR is following the NBA's lead.

Next season, NASCAR will unveil an in-season, five-race tournament clearly aimed to spice up interest in its regular season.

The tournament will feature 32 drivers and will air on TNT's portion of the 2025 broadcast schedule.

Here's how it will work:

The final three races of the Amazon Prime portion of the broadcast schedule (races 15-17) will determine the seeding of the 32-driver field. Once the bracket is set, drivers will go head-to-head, with the higher finishing drivers advancing to the next round, culminating in a winner-take-all, $1 million prize in Race No. 5 (or Race No. 22 of the season).

The in-season tourney concept comes as NASCAR begins a new seven-year media rights deal across Fox, Prime Video, TNT and NBC. Fox will carry the first 12 points races of the 2025 season, followed by Prime (five races), TNT (five races) and NBC (14 races).

"The idea of an in-season tournament has been discussed within the NASCAR industry and as we started to focus on adding promotional elements that drive interest throughout the season, we were excited by the opportunity to leverage the marketing weight of Amazon and TNT Sports to bring this concept to life,” NASCAR exec Brian Herbst said in a statement.

While in theory the tournament may "drive interest throughout the season," in practice it's a departure from everything racing has ever been. The sport has never been about head-to-head competition, but rather every driver versus the field (or in the current playoff format, four drivers vs. one another).

Now, while drivers will be racing for a checkered flag, they'll have the dual purpose of beating a singular opponent, which certainly will make for interesting competition.

No doubt diehard fans will view this as yet another act of desperation by NASCAR to curb its ratings woes. Early returns from drivers, however, paint this as a positive.

"This is such a win for our sport and drivers," Denny Hamlin said on X. "Many story lines will made during this 5 week period. I will collect my 1M royalty next season."

NASCAR has yet to release its schedule for 2025. Using this season's schedule, the tournament would begin at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in June.