Heading into the lone off weekend of the NASCAR Cup Series season, five playoff drivers from last year are at risk of missing the postseason.
Following last Sunday afternoon’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway, 16 of the 2023 regular season’s 26 races are in the books. This weekend is the lone off weekend of the season.
The schedule features 20 straight weeks of action afterward, including 10 regular season races and 10 playoff races.
Just 11 of the 16 drivers in the provisional playoff picture were in the playoffs last year. Quite a few of last year’s playoff drivers, including one who has been in the playoffs for seven straight seasons, would not be in the playoffs if they started today.
Here are five drivers from last year’s postseason who could be in trouble.
NASCAR playoff drivers in trouble: No. 1 – Austin Dillon
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Austin Dillon sits in 28th place in the point standings, 108 points below the cut line, and even without a recent 60-point penalty, he would only be in 24th.
Teammate Kyle Busch, meanwhile, is tied for the series lead with three wins. It’s not like Richard Childress Racing have taken a step back this year. If anything, this has been their best season in more than a decade, but Dillon hasn’t been able to capitalize.
Still, you can’t count him out. On only 11 occasions has a driver won his way into the playoffs from outside the top 16 in the point standings since the modern playoff format was introduced in 2014. Only one driver has done it more than once. Dillon is that driver, and he has done it four times, including last year.