NASCAR: The 4 drivers who have actually clinched playoff spots

While 12 drivers have won a race in the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season, only four have clinched playoff spots. Who are they?

NASCAR Cup Series action is scheduled to resume this coming Sunday, June 26 with the Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway following the one and only off weekend on the 2022 schedule.

This upcoming race weekend is the first of 10 remaining regular season race weekends, prior to the four-round, 10-race playoffs.

In the season’s first 16 races, 12 drivers managed to find victory lane at least once. But there are still 12 spots open in the 16-driver postseason as opposed to just four, which is not what one might expect when you consider the perceived “win and in” nature of the playoff format.

With 16 playoff spots and 26 regular season races, there is a chance that there can be more winners than playoff spots, thus preventing the playoff format from being a true “win and in” format.

The 16 playoff spots go to the regular season points champion and then the 15 drivers who rank next highest in wins. Because there can only be, at most, 13 multi-race winners in the regular season, any driver who wins twice is locked into the playoffs.

But in the event that there are more than 16 different regular season race winners, not all of the single-race winners would qualify. The remaining open spots would be awarded to the single-race winners who rank highest in points.

Four drivers have won multiple races so far this year and are therefore the only four drivers locked into this year’s playoffs: Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron, Trackhouse Racing Team’s Ross Chastain, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin, and Team Penske’s Joey Logano.

The eight single-race winners, who have not officially secured their playoff spots yet, include Hendrick Motorsports teammates Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, and Alex Bowman, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe, Trackhouse Racing Team’s Daniel Suarez, Team Penske’s Austin Cindric, and 23XI Racing’s Kurt Busch.

Here is where the eight single-race winners rank in the point standings.

  • 1 – Chase Elliott – 536 (0)
  • 3 – Kyle Busch – 513 (-23)
  • 7 – Kyle Larson – 476 (-60)
  • 9 – Alex Bowman – 460 (-76)
  • 13 – Chase Briscoe – 386 (-150)
  • 17 – Daniel Suarez – 366 (-170)
  • 18 – Austin Cindric – 362 (-174)
  • 19 – Kurt Busch – 355 (-181)

If more new winners emerge throughout the regular season’s final 10 races, that battle toward the bottom of these standings will surely be one to watch.

And there could very well be more new winners, as seven full-time drivers who won a race last year have not yet done so this year, including four who rank inside the top 11 in the point standings, and six drivers who have scored at least one runner-up finish this season have not yet won.

Only one of those drivers falls into both categories, meaning that there are 12 drivers who fall into at least one of the two. Those 12 drivers don’t even include one of the drivers who currently sits in the top 16 in the point standings.

So there are literally more than a dozen drivers — other than the dozen drivers who have already won this year — fully capable of finding victory lane.

Can four of those drivers win one of the next 10 races? Absolutely, so there might very well be more than 16 different winners by the time the regular season ends, despite the fact that this situation has never arisen since the modern NASCAR Cup Series playoff format was introduced back in 2014.

Tune in to NBC at 5:00 p.m. ET this Sunday, June 26 for the live broadcast of the Ally 400 from Nashville Superspeedway. If you haven’t yet begun a free trial of FuboTV, make sure to do so before then!