NASCAR: 3 drivers most likely to climb into the playoff picture

Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images) /
1 of 3
Alex Bowman, NASCAR
Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

Which three drivers who are currently out of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series playoff picture have the best chance to climb their way into the top 16?

Entering the fifth race of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season, there are four drivers who qualified for the 2020 playoffs and returned for the 2021 season but are not currently in the top 16 in the point standings.

This is the case thanks to a very unexpected start to the year, with four different winners, including two first-time winners, one second-time winner and a winner who didn’t compete for almost 90% of last season.

Only one of the four drivers to win so far this season competed in last year’s playoffs, meaning that unless we see more than 12 different winners throughout the regular season’s final 22 races, three playoff berths are already guaranteed to go to drivers who were not in last year’s postseason.

However, there is still plenty of time for the four 2020 playoff drivers who are currently out of the playoff picture to climb their way back in.

Not limiting ourselves to those four drivers, however, which three drivers currently outside of the top 16 are most likely to climb into it before the regular season ends?

Drivers most likely to enter the playoff picture: #1 – Alex Bowman

Alex Bowman is an easy pick here. After taking the pole position for the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway and breaking the record for most consecutive front row starts in the race, he was involved in an early wreck that ruined his chances of continuing on in the event.

But after that, he recorded back-to-back top 10 finishes at the track’s road course and then at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and he was on pace to do so again at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Unfortunately for him, a late flat tire ruined his day, and he finished in 27th place.

Even with that misfortune, however, Bowman still sits in 18th place in the point standings, just four points below the cut line. It appears to be only a matter of time before the driver who finished in sixth in last year’s standings gets into the top 16 and ultimately locks up the #48 team’s first playoff berth since 2018.