Following Chase Elliott’s victory in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Nashville Superspeedway, five drivers are officially locked into the playoffs.
Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott, who has been sitting atop the NASCAR Cup Series point standings after each of the last 13 races going back to the March race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, earned his second victory of the 2022 season on Sunday night at Nashville Superspeedway.
Elliott also won at Dover Motor Speedway back in early May, so his win this past weekend made him two for two on concrete ovals this year.
By winning on Sunday night, Elliott became the fifth driver to win twice through 17 races this year, making him the fifth driver to officially clinch a playoff berth.
The other four two-race winners this year include Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron, Trackhouse Racing Team’s Ross Chastain, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin, and Team Penske’s Joey Logano.
Those four drivers, along with Elliott, are the only five drivers to lock themselves into the playoffs this year.
The playoff format is often referred to as a “win and in” format, but with 26 regular season races and 16 playoff spots, that isn’t inherently the case, as there could very well be more than 16 race winners.
While it has never happened before, it could very well happen in 2022, as there have been 12 winners already this year and there are still nine races remaining on the regular season schedule.
The 16 playoff spots go to the regular season champion, whether he has any wins or not, and the 15 drivers who rank next highest in wins. If there are more than 16 winners, the tiebreaker among the single-race winners becomes points.
But because there can be no more than 13 two-race winners in the regular season, these five drivers cannot drop out of the top 15 in the regular season wins category and therefore cannot drop from the playoff picture, whereas the single-race winners can.
As for the seven single-race winners, only three (Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch and Hendrick Motorsports teammates Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman) currently sit inside the top 14 in the point standings (all in the top 10), so if there are more than 16 regular season race winners, they are probably safe as well.
But the other four, who sit between 15th and 19th place (23XI Racing’s Kurt Busch, Team Penske rookie Austin Cindric, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe, and Trackhouse Racing Team’s Daniel Suarez), could be in trouble.