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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Austin Dillon, NASCAR
Austin Dillon, Richard Childress Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

Drivers most likely to drop out of the playoffs: #3 – Austin Dillon

Austin Dillon always seems to surprise fans by pulling a rabbit out of a hat to make the playoffs. It’s hard to believe that he has been to the postseason in four of the last five seasons, three times via upset wins and one time via points.

But he entered the 2021 season looking like a playoff driver, as he proved that, while he needed a tire strategy win at Texas Motor Speedway last season to get to the playoffs, the #3 team had made some serious gains late in the 2020 season.

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He advanced to last year’s round of 12 with two of the best performances of his career at unlikely tracks, Darlington Raceway and Richmond Raceway, in the round 16 and would have had a solid shot to advance to the round of 8 if not for mechanical issues in the race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

However, the start of the 2021 season hasn’t reflected those gains. Back-to-back 12th place finishes on 1.5-mile ovals are decent, but “decent” only does so much when you’ve dropped from the points lead to 12th in the standings in a matter of three races and there are still several perennial contenders making up ground behind you.

Plus, 24 of his 115 points came from his Bluegreen Vacations Duel win and his Daytona 500 stage results. He has scored just 57 points since his third place finish in the Daytona 500 netted him an additional 34 points (58 total points earned in the season opener).

Once again, it looks like Dillon’s best bet is going to be to win his way into the playoffs, and it’s anybody’s guess as to where that might happen.

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The fifth race on the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Instacart 500, which is scheduled to take place tomorrow afternoon. Fox is set to broadcast the race live from Phoenix Raceway beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET.