NASCAR makes crucial Chase Elliott playoff decision

Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: David Yeazell-USA TODAY Sports /

NASCAR announced that Chase Elliott has been granted a playoff waiver, meaning his suspension won’t count against his playoff eligibility.

Though he won’t be competing in this coming Sunday afternoon’s NASCAR Cup Series race at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway after being suspended for one race for his move on Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott did get some good news on Thursday.

NASCAR has granted the driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet a playoff waiver. The decision was expected, given past situations of drivers receiving playoff waivers after being suspended.

Make note of the fact that a waiver doesn’t actually mean a driver is locked into the playoffs; it simply means that his missed start won’t count against his playoff eligibility if he manages to qualify. Any driver who misses a race or races needs to be granted a waiver to remain playoff eligible.

Chase Elliott still has a relatively steep hill to climb if he wants to make the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season his eighth straight season with a playoff appearance.

In fact, Elliott has been to the round of 12 in all seven of his seasons as a full-time driver, and he hasn’t failed to get to the round of 8 since 2016. The 2020 series champion hasn’t failed to get to the Championship 4 since 2019.

After missing six races earlier this season with a fractured left tibia he suffered in a Colorado snowboarding crash in early March, he sits in 28th place in the point standings, 81 points below the playoff cut line. He was granted a waiver after missing those six races, meaning he has now been granted two waivers in the last two months.

That 81-point deficit will surely grow after this Sunday afternoon’s Enjoy Illinois 300 presented by TicketSmarter, at which point there will be only 11 races remaining on the 26-race regular season schedule.

Elliott can qualify for the playoffs by winning as well; he doesn’t necessarily need to lock in on points. However, if there are more than 16 regular season winners (or more than 15, if the regular season champion ends up winless), then one win may not be enough to qualify for the postseason.

The tiebreaker to determine which single-race winners get in and which don’t would then become points, and Elliott isn’t exactly in a great position, thanks in large part to his six (soon to be seven) missed starts. The lowest single-race winner in the standings is currently Team Penske’s Joey Logano, and he sits in 14th place, 142 points ahead of Elliott.

Through 14 races this season, 10 drivers have won at least one race, but only three have won more than once.

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

Elliott is set to return to action at Sonoma Raceway in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 on Sunday, June 11. The race is set to be broadcast live on Fox beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET. This coming Sunday’s race at Gateway is set to be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1 beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET. Start a free trial of FuboTV today and don’t miss it!