The NASCAR Cup Series returns this weekend after a three-week break, with just four rounds remaining in the regular season.
Here’s a guide to which circuits remain before the playoffs begin, with some drivers still hopeful of snatching that crucial win they need to book their spot.
Why has NASCAR had a break?
As is tradition, broadcasters Fox Sports and NBC have split coverage of the Cup racing season.
Fox take the first half, including the Daytona 500, while NBC take the second, including the end of the regular season, and playoffs.
NBC also holds broadcast rights for the Olympic Games in the Americas, paying the IOC $7.75 billion for the privilege.
Not wanting clash between Cup and events in Tokyo, a three-week break was built into the NASCAR calendar.
It is also the last break teams and drivers will have between the season restarting and the championship race at Phoenix in November.
History to be made at Indy
Racing resumes on Sunday with a road course event at Watkins Glen – the first since 2019.
The event was missed last season due to covid-19 quarantine rules in New York state.
A week later, Cup heads to Indianapolis – but for the first time ever will not race on the 2.5-mile oval.
Since NASCAR started to race at IMS in 1994, the event has been held on the famed oval, but it will switch to the 2.4-mile road course for 2021.
It is not just NASCAR racing that weekend at IMS, as IndyCar will also be in town for its own road course event.
It is the first time the top two levels of stock car and open-wheel racing will combine for a joint-event.
Ovals to see out regular season
After the road course double-header, NASCAR will head north to race at the two-mile Michigan oval.
Stewart-Haas driver Kevin Harvick is the defending race winner, having swept both races at the speedway in 2020.
The finale to the regular season will take place at Daytona – on the superspeedway.
It will be the second time that the event has closed out the regular season, having switched from its traditional July 4th slot for 2020.
Who has qualified for the playoffs?
There are just 16 places available in the NASCAR playoffs, with a win securing a spot in them for the driver.
In 22 points races this season, victories have been shared by 13 drivers.
Aric Almirola was the latest to advance with his New Hampshire win in the #10 SHR Ford Mustang.
Series points leader Denny Hamlin is yet to win a race in the #11 Joe Gibbs Toyota, but sits 283 points above the cutline.
He is almost certain to make it through on points, as is Harvick (+82).
However, should there be new race winners this season, both Hamlin and Harvick could yet still fail to advance through.
Bubba Wallace, driver of the Michael Jordan-backed 23XI Racing entry cannot realistically make it on points.
The #23 needs a win to make the playoffs in its debut season.
The #99 of Daniel Suarez in the Pitbull-co-owned Trackhouse Racing machine is in a similar position.