NASCAR Cup Series: 5 playoff drivers who could be in trouble

Daniel Suarez, Trackhouse Racing Team, Chase Briscoe, Stewart-Haas Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Daniel Suarez, Trackhouse Racing Team, Chase Briscoe, Stewart-Haas Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /
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Chase Elliott, NASCAR
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) /

NASCAR playoff drivers in trouble: No. 5 – Chase Elliott

Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott saw his playoff chances tumble when he was sidelined for six weeks after suffering a broken left tibia in a Colorado snowboarding accident in early March.

Because of how many opportunities he missed to score points, Elliott fell to last among full-time drivers in the point standings. As a result, the general expectation is that he needs to win at least one race before the end of the regular season in order to get into the playoffs for the eighth straight year.

Many believe that’s a sure thing for the only driver who has won multiple races in each of the last five seasons, but it is far from a guarantee.

Elliott led the series in wins, laps led, total points, and average finish in year number one of the Next Gen car, and he has performed well so far in 2023, finishing in second place at Auto Club Speedway and scoring the most points of all drivers at Talladega Superspeedway.

But look no further back than 2021 to illustrate the fact that absolutely nothing is a given in this sport. As the reigning champion, he won just two races, and those wins came at Circuit of the Americas and Road America. Circuit of the Americas hosted a race during his absence back in March, and Road America is no longer on the schedule for 2023.

Of course, it’s still possible that Elliott qualifies for the playoffs on points. A 102-point gap to the cut line is absolutely not insurmountable over the course of 15 races. But with additional winners, that cut line could and likely will move up, and with Elliott currently sitting in 29th place, he has 13 drivers to pass; it’s not just one 102-point gap he has to worry about.

Last year, we saw fourth place Martin Truex Jr. (third without stage points) miss the playoffs simply because he didn’t win any regular season races. And even if Elliott wins a race, he may not be safe, considering the fact that there can be more than 16 regular season winners.

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

Which of these five drivers will end up in the playoffs? How many of them won’t make it in?