NASCAR: Chase Elliott didn’t clinch a playoff spot

Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

Chase Elliott won Monday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Dover Motor Speedway, though he hasn’t mathematically locked up a playoff spot.

After rain pushed the majority of Sunday afternoon’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Dover Motor Speedway back to Monday afternoon, Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott earned his first victory of the 2022 season.

Elliott had been on a 26-race win drought since winning at Road America last July. Since earning his first victory in August 2018 at Watkins Glen International, this drought was his longest. He has now won at least one race in each of the last five seasons.

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For all intents and purposes, Elliott’s win locks him into the playoffs. However, the 26-year-old Dawsonville, Georgia native hasn’t officially secured a playoff spot for 2022, though it would take a lot to keep him out.

The reason for this is the fact that the playoff spots go to the regular season points champion and the 15 drivers who rank next highest in wins; it’s not as simple as a “win and in” format, considering the fact that there are 26 regular season races and just 16 playoff spots.

Through 11 races this year, there have been nine different winners.

There are still 15 regular season races remaining to get at least seven more winners, meaning that there is still technically a chance that more than 16 winners will emerge.

As a result, the only way to truly lock up a playoff spot at this point in the year is by winning twice, something that only Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron and Trackhouse Racing Team’s Ross Chastain have done. With 26 regular season races, there can be no more than 13 two-race winners, so those two drivers can’t drop out of the top 16 in the wins category.

In the event of more than 16 winners, the tiebreaker to fill the remaining open playoff spots behind the multi-race winners is points among the one-race winners, of which there are currently seven.

Fortunately for Elliott, if there is any one-race winner who doesn’t have to worry about potentially missing the playoffs, he is the one.

Elliott leads the point standings by 50 points over Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney in second place, and he is 65 points ahead of the next highest one-race winner, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch. So if the points tiebreaker comes into play, he probably isn’t going to be the one left out.

We also can’t neglect to mention the fact that Elliott is the points leader. Therefore, even without a win, he would qualify for the playoffs by remaining atop the standings no matter how many different winners emerge before the regular season ends.

So while Elliott hasn’t mathematically clinched a postseason spot, it would take a bizarre set of circumstances for him to drop out of the top 16 in the playoff picture.

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The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season’s 12th race is the Goodyear 400, which is set to be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1 from Darlington Raceway beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, May 8. FuboTV is offering free trials to new customers, so take advantage and start yours now!