NASCAR: Chicago race winner not locked into playoffs?

Shane van Gisbergen, Trackhouse, Chicago, NASCAR (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Shane van Gisbergen, Trackhouse, Chicago, NASCAR (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Shane van Gisbergen became the 12th different winner in the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season. However, his Chicago win does not put him into the playoffs.

In his first career NASCAR Cup Series start, Shane van Gisbergen drove the No. 91 Chevrolet for Trackhouse Racing Team’s PROJECT91 program, and he drove it to victory lane at the brand-new Chicago Street Course. In doing so, he became the first driver to win on debut in more than 60 years.

The 34-year-old New Zealander was a contender throughout the 78-lap race around the 12-turn, 2.2-mile (3.541-kilometer) temporary street circuit in Chicago, Illinois after qualifying in an impressive third place, and he battled back from the middle of the pack late.

He sealed the win with a pair of passes for the lead on Kaulig Racing’s Justin Haley, and he held off the driver of the No. 31 Chevrolet after a late restart.

However, the Chicago win does not make Shane van Gisbergen eligible for the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

Could van Gisbergen technically become a full-time driver and run rest of the 2023 schedule? Yes. But it won’t happen.

Could van Gisbergen technically apply for a playoff waiver (since he did not compete in the season’s first 17 races) and receive one? Yes. But it won’t happen.

Yet even if those two things did happen, which they won’t, he still wouldn’t be in the playoffs.

Drivers cannot retrospectively be granted playoff eligibility after a win. In other words, yes, he could become playoff eligible by becoming a full-time driver and receiving a waiver, but he would need to win again for it to count.

The same is true when drivers shift their points eligibility, like we saw with Ross Chastain in 2019. Despite the fact that he was a Truck Series race winner, he was not eligible for Truck Series points at the time. After switching his eligibility from the Xfinity Series to the Truck Series, he had to win again to secure a playoff spot, which he did.

Yes, van Gisbergen is actually eligible for Cup Series points; he scored 55 out of a possible 60 in Sunday’s race. But the same general concept applies. He didn’t go into the race with playoff eligibility, so therefore his win cannot make him a playoff driver.

Alas, none of that is going to happen anyway, meaning that all of the drivers who have yet to clinch playoff spots are absolutely okay with the fact that a 12th playoff spot was not secured on Sunday night and the playoff cut line remained between the 16th and 17th place drivers in the point standings.

Of course, those drivers would have liked to win the Grant Park 220 themselves, but van Gisbergen winning was the next best thing.

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Will a 12th playoff spot be secured in what many believe with be another “wild card” race at Atlanta Motor Speedway? The Quaker State 400 Presented by Walmart is set to be broadcast live on USA Network beginning at 7:00 p.m. ET this Sunday, July 9. Be sure to begin a free trial of FuboTV now and don’t miss it!