NASCAR: Chase Briscoe hasn’t clinched a playoff spot

Chase Briscoe, Stewart-Haas Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)
Chase Briscoe, Stewart-Haas Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images) /

Chase Briscoe earned the first victory of his NASCAR Cup Series career on Sunday, but that doesn’t mean he is necessarily locked into the playoffs.

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe became the fourth different winner in the first four races of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season by winning Sunday afternoon’s Ruoff Mortgage 500 at Phoenix Raceway, and he became the second first-time winner of the year.

Rookie Austin Cindric of Team Penske won the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, making this year’s running of the “Great American Race” the second in a row to see a first-timer winner.

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Hendrick Motorsports teammates Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman, the two drivers who have won the most races since the start of last season, then won at Auto Club Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway, respectively.

Logic would suggest that Briscoe’s win made him the fourth driver to lock into this year’s playoffs, given the fact the Cup Series playoff format is often referred to as a “win and in” format.

However, none of these four drivers have clinched playoff spots quite yet.

The reason why is simple: the 16 drivers who end up in the playoffs are the driver who ranks highest in the final regular season point standings, whether he has any wins or not, and the 15 drivers (aside from him) who rank highest in wins.

If there are more than 15 other winners, the tiebreaker among single-race winners to determine the final playoff spots is points. If there are fewer than 15 other winners, 16 drivers still get in; the tiebreaker among non-winners to determine the final playoff spots is points as well.

Right now, Larson and Briscoe are tied for fourth place in the standings while Cindric sits in eighth and Bowman sits in 11th.

While having at least 16 regular season winners has never happened and remains fairly unlikely, the list of drivers who could have won any one of the first four races alone goes far beyond 16 names. And there are still 22 races remaining on the regular season schedule.

The fact that this is the first season of the Gen 7 car also makes it an interesting possibility with so many races at so many different venues left to run.

So the only way to truly lock up a playoff berth at this point in the year is by winning twice, as there is no way that a driver who wins multiple races can finish outside of the top 13 in wins by the time the 26-race regular season ends.

Technically, winning twice doesn’t 100% lock in a spot, but that’s only if we’re looking at any caveat that will probably never apply in this situation.

Regardless of win total, a driver must remain in the top 30 in the point standings in order to be playoff eligible. Considering the fact that there are only 32 full-time drivers this year, you aren’t going to see a driver win twice and finish outside of the top 30, barring some bizarre circumstance that leads to that particular driver missing races.

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The fifth race of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season is the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, which is set to be broadcast live on Fox from Atlanta Motor Speedway beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 20. Will a fifth different winner emerge, or will Cindric, Larson, Bowman or Briscoe prevail to become the first driver to win twice this year and thus secure a playoff spot? Start your free trial of FuboTV today and don’t miss it!