NASCAR Cup Series: 5 possible playoff bid stealers

Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, Corey LaJoie, Spire Motorsports, NASCAR (Mandatory Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports)
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, Corey LaJoie, Spire Motorsports, NASCAR (Mandatory Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Chase Elliott, NASCAR
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports) /

NASCAR playoff bid stealers: No. 2 – Chase Elliott

Coming into the 2023 season, few expected Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott to be winless, let alone 64 points behind the playoff cut line nearly two-thirds of the way through the regular season. In his seven previous full-time seasons, he has never missed the playoffs.

But 2023 has been anything but nice to Elliott thus far. After fracturing his tibia in a snowboarding accident in March just two races into the season, he was forced to miss six races. By the time he returned at Martinsville Speedway, he was well outside the playoff picture.

However, his misfortunes were not over yet.

During the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May, Elliott intentionally wrecked Denny Hamlin after on-track contact between the two. Following the incident, he was issued a one-race suspension by NASCAR and forced to sit out the following week at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.

Despite the additional missed start, Elliott has already worked his way up from 32nd to 25th place in the standings since he returned from his injury. In the eight races since his return, he has picked up three top five finishes and five top 10 finishes, including back-to-back top five results in the two most recent races at Sonoma Raceway and Nashville Superspeedway.

Much like Allmendinger, Elliott has been a strong road course racer throughout his career, with multiple wins at both Watkins Glen and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, along with wins at Circuit of the Americas, Road America, and the Daytona road course.

With three more road course events, plus several other tracks where he has won in the past, remaining on the regular season schedule, Elliott should have plenty of opportunities to pick up a win to lock himself into the playoffs.

Given his strong performance in the past few weeks, the odds of him picking up a win seem rather strong, especially when you consider the fact that he won more races than any other driver during the 2022 season.

And like Allmendinger, it’s not impossible for Elliott to get into the playoffs on points. While the task won’t be easy, the 64-point deficit could be erased with strong runs on a weekly basis, along with a cut line that doesn’t see any significant movements or changes.

But even so, winning a race in the near future would be the ideal solution for the Georgia native to punch his eighth straight playoff ticket.