NASCAR: 3 drivers most likely to drop out of the playoff picture

NASCAR (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
NASCAR (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images) /
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Ryan Preece, NASCAR
Ryan Preece, JTG Daugherty Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

Drivers most likely to drop out of the playoffs: #2 – Ryan Preece

Ryan Preece had a phenomenal start to the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season at Daytona International Speedway. Following a disappointing season in which his top finish was ninth place, he and the #37 team entered the new year without a charter, and thus without a guaranteed starting spot in any race with more than 40 cars on the entry list.

Preece raced his way into the Daytona 500, in addition to being safe on time, and finished in sixth place, his best finish in nearly two years.

He backed that up with a ninth place finish at the track’s road course, quietly making him one of only four drivers to record back-to-back top 10 finishes to start the season — one season after he recorded only two total top 10 finishes, with the first not coming until the 29th of 36 races.

But this hot start to the season has cooled off a bit, and it may very well have unfortunately been more lightning in a bottle than anything, especially considering it came at two “wild card” tracks. His average finish in the two races at 1.5-mile ovals since then is 18.0, which is decent and an improvement from last season, but he’ll need to do better.

Preece has already dropped to 13th place in the point standings. He still sits 24 points ahead of the cut line, but he is in a vulnerable position, with four of the six drivers directly behind him being playoff drivers from last season — including two-time champion Kyle Busch. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him drop out relatively soon.