NASCAR: How Chase Elliott moved up two spots during his suspension

Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

When Chase Elliott was suspended, he was in 29th place in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings. He sits in 27th as he prepares to make his return.

NASCAR suspended Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott for one Cup Series race after Elliott was deemed to have intentionally wrecked Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin as an act of retaliation during the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway two weeks ago.

As a result, the driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet did not compete in last Sunday’s race at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway. But he is set to return for this Sunday afternoon’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.

Elliott missed six races earlier this season with a fractured left tibia he suffered in a Colorado snowboarding crash. As a result, he was already behind the eight ball when it came to the point standings.

While locking into the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs on points was not out of the question, Chase Elliott has been focused on winning to secure his spot.

His one-race suspension gave him one less opportunity to potentially win his way into his eighth consecutive postseason, and he obviously scored zero points at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway due to the fact that he didn’t compete.

Yet from the time he was suspended to the time he makes his return at Sonoma Raceway, Elliott has jumped two positions in the point standings, putting him 11 positions below the playoff cut line instead of 13. He sits in 27th place as opposed to 29th.

Elliott’s suspension did not carry a points penalty. But since his suspension, two drivers have been docked a significant amount of points as a result of Next Gen car violations.

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe was docked 120 points and now has 175 instead of 295, while Legacy Motor Club’s Erik Jones was docked 60 points and now has 185 instead of 245.

So Elliott, despite having been sitting at 215 points for the last 13 days, is now ahead of two drivers who were ahead of him prior to his suspension.

Of course, this doesn’t exactly make qualifying for the playoffs any easier for Elliott. There are now just 11 races remaining in the regular season — 11 opportunities for him to win his way in — and his deficit to the cut line is now 98 points, which is significantly more than it would have been had he not been suspended.

Elliott has made just eight starts in the 2023 season’s first 15 races, so on paper, his regular season shouldn’t even be halfway over, provided he doesn’t miss any more races. Can he get into the playoffs on points or win his in over the course of the regular season’s final 11 events?

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Sunday afternoon’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 is set to be broadcast live on Fox beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET. Elliott, who leads all active drivers with seven career road course wins, is set to start in 10th place. Start a free trial of FuboTV now and don’t miss it!