NASCAR rule change shouldn’t affect Chase Elliott

Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

An offseason rule change shouldn’t affect Chase Elliott’s ability to qualify for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs one way or another.

Before the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season began, NASCAR made a slight change to a playoff requirement. Cup Series drivers had previously needed to be in the top 30 in the point standings to qualify for the playoffs by winning a race, but that requirement was lifted, making all full-time drivers playoff eligible with a victory.

Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott missed the last six races with a fractured left tibia he suffered in a Colorado snowboarding accident last month. He is set to return in Sunday afternoon’s race at Martinsville Speedway and has been granted a playoff waiver.

The playoff waiver means that his six missed starts don’t count against his playoff eligibility, so he can still qualify for the playoffs despite having not competed — nor scored any points — since he finished in second place in the season’s second race at Auto Club Speedway on Sunday, February 26.

The top 30 requirement being lifted likely won’t have any impact on Chase Elliott’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff chances.

Elliott currently sits in 34th place in the point standings, last among full-time drivers, and he sits 134 points below the playoff cut line. Because there is still a chance that there can be more than 16 winners in the regular season, with seven winners in eight races already and 18 regular season races to go, one single win won’t necessarily lock anybody into the playoffs.

Because Elliott is currently outside the top 30, it would be easy to point to this preseason rule change as a reason for him still being playoff eligible.

But it likely won’t matter.

He has scored 49 points this season in just two races, and even after missing six races, he is only 42 points out of the top 30. He could theoretically get back into the top 30 in a single weekend.

The driver in 30th place, Legacy Motor Club’s Noah Gragson, has averaged 11.38 points per race. Elliott has averaged 24.5, an average which, despite including a DNF in the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, would be good for 14th among full-time drivers.

So unless the 27-year-old Dawsonville, Georgia native misses additional races, this rule change probably isn’t going to affect whether or not he makes the playoffs.

It is highly unlikely that he won’t finish in the top 30 in the standings, making it highly unlikely that this rule change will be what saves him from missing the postseason for the first time in his Cup Series career.

The big question is whether or not he will, in fact, do enough to qualify over the course of the regular season’s final 18 races.

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Tune in to Fox Sports 1 at 3:00 p.m. ET this Sunday, April 16 for the live broadcast of the NOCO 400 from Martinsville Speedway to watch Chase Elliott’s long-awaited return to the NASCAR Cup Series. Start a free trial of FuboTV now and don’t miss it!