NASCAR: Christopher Bell not locked into playoffs after Bristol

Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing, Bristol, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Christopher Bell, Joe Gibbs Racing, Bristol, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

Despite his win at Bristol Motor Speedway, Christopher Bell still has work to do to officially solidify his spot in the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

Joe Gibbs Racing have five top five finishes in the first eight races of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season. Just one of the team’s four drivers, Christopher Bell, is responsible for all of them, and now one of them is a win.

The driver of the No. 20 Toyota made his third season with Joe Gibbs Racing his third straight winning season on Sunday night at Bristol Motor Speedway, becoming the first driver known for his prowess in dirt track racing to win the dirt race at “The Last Great Colosseum” in its third year on the schedule.

But while the modern Cup Series playoff format is widely considered a “win and in” format, Bell hasn’t yet officially locked up a spot in this year’s postseason.

Including Christopher Bell, there have now been seven winners in eight NASCAR Cup Series races so far this season.

While NASCAR has never run into this situation, there can technically be more than 16 race winners in the 26-race regular season. In fact, last year there were exactly 16, and there ended up being 19 in the first 29 races of the year. There are only 16 playoff spots available, regardless of how many winners there are.

The regular season champion is locked into the postseason regardless of whether or not he wins any regular season races. The other 15 playoff spots officially go to the 15 drivers who rank next highest in wins.

If there aren’t enough winners to fill the playoff spots, as we usually see, then the remaining playoff spots are awarded to non-winners based on points.

If there are too many winners (i.e. more than 15 with a winless regular season champion or more than 16 without one), then the tiebreaker again becomes points, but among the single-race winners.

Any driver with more than one win is guaranteed to finish the regular season in the top 15 in wins, since there can’t be any more than 13 multi-race winners during the regular season.

The only multi-race winner so far this year is Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron, who won at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Phoenix Raceway, so he is the only driver officially locked into the playoffs.

Aside from Bell and Byron, the other winners this year, in the order of the point standings, include Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson (fourth place), 23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick (fifth), Richard Childress Racing’s Kyle Busch (sixth), Team Penske’s Joey Logano (eighth), and JTG Daugherty Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (13th).

Bell is currently the points leader, so he probably doesn’t have much to worry about. But a lot can change over the course of 18 races, which is how many remain on the regular season schedule, so he will surely want to earn his second win of the season sooner rather than later to officially secure his third straight playoff spot.

The season’s next race is scheduled to take place at Martinsville Speedway, and Bell is the most recent winner there, winning at “The Paperclip” last October to solidify a spot in the Championship 4 for the first time in his career.

Next. All-time NASCAR Cup Series wins list. dark

The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season’s ninth race is the NOCO 400, which is scheduled to take place on Sunday, Apri 16 at Martinsville Speedway. The race is set to be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1 beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET. If you have not already done so, begin a free trial of FuboTV now!