NASCAR: 5 playoff drivers who might be in trouble

Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /
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Several drivers who qualified for last year’s NASCAR Cup Series playoffs are at risk of not getting into this year’s postseason.

The first 18 races of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season have produced 13 different winners, as only five drivers have won more than once. Of these 13 winners, five had never won before, and of those five, four have never before been to the playoffs.

With eight races remaining on the regular season schedule, there is still a chance that at least one winner will be left out of the playoffs. Despite the “win and in” concept of the playoff format, there are 16 playoff spots available regardless of how many different regular season race winners there are.

Because there have been so many winners who did not qualify for last year’s playoffs, there will inevitably be several playoff drivers from last year who miss this year’s postseason.

Here are five playoff drivers from 2021 — plus two dark horses — who could be at risk of missing the postseason.

Playoff drivers in trouble: No. 1 – Brad Keselowski

RFK Racing’s Brad Keselowski is the most obvious candidate to miss this year’s playoffs after qualifying last year — and in each of the seven years before that. His first year as the driver of the #6 Ford and co-owner of the team has not gone according to plan.

Keselowski has just one top 10 finish since the Daytona 500, which he finished in a disappointing — yet season-best — ninth place after leading the most laps and winning his Duel qualifying race.

Additionally, he was issued a 100-point penalty after a violation was discovered during teardown inspection at the NASCAR R&D Center following the March race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Keselowski sits in 30th place in the point standings, so a win would make him playoff eligible. But even without the penalty, he would only sit in 24th, which is currently 16 spots below where the points cut line sits. Will his 11-year win streak come to an end in 2022? If it does, his eight-year playoff streak will as well.