NASCAR removes driver from Cup Series playoff standings

Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

NASCAR did not include Alex Bowman in the Cup Series playoff standings, despite the fact that he is currently one of the top 16 drivers.

The NASCAR Cup Series playoff battle has been heating up leading into this Sunday afternoon’s Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway, which marks the halfway point of the 26-race regular season.

Nine drivers have already won at least one race this year to vault themselves to the top of the playoff picture, with three officially securing playoff berths by winning twice.

In the spirit of throwback weekend at the four-turn, 1.366-mile (2.198-kilometer) Darlington, South Carolina oval, NASCAR posted an old-school newspaper-type picture of the current Cup Series playoff picture heading into the season’s 13th race.

But one driver was excluded from the NASCAR Cup Series playoff picture.

Hendrick Motorsports’ Alex Bowman, who has missed the last two races after suffering a fractured vertebra in a sprint car crash, still sits in 15th place in the point standings with 270 points and should be ahead of Trackhouse Racing Team’s Daniel Suarez.

The playoff cut line is actually between Suarez and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe, with Bowman 15 points ahead and Suarez four points ahead. Briscoe is really four points behind, not two points ahead. Everyone behind Briscoe is really four points behind where they are shown to be. For example, 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace is six points behind, not two.

So why is Bowman not included?

Technically, it makes sense — sort of.

Drivers who don’t compete in all 26 regular season races are not eligible for the playoffs, unless they are granted a playoff waiver. Bowman has not been granted a playoff waiver, so it makes sense not to include him in the current playoff picture.

That having been said, it is highly unlikely that he won’t be given one, considering the sport’s past decisions on waivers when drivers are unexpectedly forced to miss a race or races with an injury.

In fact, teammate Chase Elliott missed six races earlier this season with a fractured left tibia he suffered in a snowboarding accident, and he retained his playoff eligibility.

A decision on a potential playoff waiver for Bowman won’t officially be made until his return date is known, just like the case was with Elliott and other drivers who missed time in recent years.

Bowman was initially said to be out for three to four weeks, and he is set to miss his third straight Cup Series race this coming Sunday afternoon at Darlington Raceway. He could return as early as the All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway, which is a non-points race, on Sunday, May 21.

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If not, he could still return for the next points race, that being the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 28.