NASCAR rule change could save Noah Gragson’s season

Noah Gragson, Legacy Motor Club, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Noah Gragson, Legacy Motor Club, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

With NASCAR granting him a waiver, Noah Gragson remains playoff eligible, and he doesn’t need to be in the top 30 for a win to count toward playoff eligibility.

Legacy Motor Club rookie Noah Gragson was sidelined from the NASCAR Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway two weekends ago after experiencing concussion-like symptoms following a hard wreck at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway the week prior.

Fortunately for the 24-year-old Las Vegas, Nevada native, the race at Sonoma Raceway, which saw Truck Series driver Grant Enfinger fill in for him behind the wheel of the No. 42 Chevrolet, was the final race before the lone off weekend of the season, giving him additional time to recover.

Gragson has since been cleared to return to competition, and he is set to get back behind the wheel of the No. 42 Chevrolet for this coming Sunday evening’s Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway.

Importantly, NASCAR did grant Noah Gragson a playoff waiver.

A playoff waiver means that Gragson’s missed start won’t count against his playoff eligibility, should he manage to qualify. At this point, he likely needs to win to qualify, given the fact that he sits in 33rd place in the point standings, lowest among all full-time drivers. He is 188 points below the playoff cut line.

But in the event that Gragson does manage to find victory lane, which is very possible considering the fact that he did come close to winning at Talladega Superspeedway back in April, an offseason rule change could be the difference between him qualifying for the playoffs and not getting in.

Prior to the 2023 season, a win only counted toward a driver’s playoff eligibility if that driver was in the top 30 in the point standings.

For instance, even if Spire Motorsports’ Corey LaJoie had hung on to win the July race at Atlanta Motor Speedway last year, he wouldn’t have been in the playoffs since he didn’t finish the regular season inside the top 30.

But now any win by a full-time driver counts.

The only way a race winner misses the playoffs now is if there are more than 16 winners (or more than 15 winners, if there is a winless regular season champion).

The 16 playoff spots go to the regular season champion and the 15 drivers who rank next highest in wins, meaning that all multi-race winners are locked in since there can be no more than 13 of them over the course of a 26-race regular season.

In the event that there are more drivers eligible for the playoffs than there are playoff spots, the tiebreaker among single-race winners to determine who’s in and who’s out becomes points.

As the lowest ranking full-time driver, Gragson isn’t exactly sitting in a favorable position in that scenario. There have already been 10 winners in 16 races this season.

There are 10 races remaining on the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series regular season schedule, meaning that there are 10 opportunities for Gragson to win his way into the playoffs.

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

The first of those 10 races is the Ally 400, which is scheduled to take place this Sunday, June 25 at Nashville Superspeedway. It is set to be broadcast live on NBC beginning at 7:00 p.m. ET. Begin a free trial of FuboTV today and don’t miss it!

DraftKings Sportsbook, which is offering fans $150 just for signing up and betting $5, lists Gragson’s odds to win the race at +50000.