NASCAR: Half of Hendrick Motorsports could be in trouble

Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)
Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images) /

Half of Hendrick Motorsports’ NASCAR Cup Series drivers are at risk of missing the 2023 playoffs, with Alex Bowman and Chase Elliott both in danger.

It seems like not too long ago, NASCAR fans were asking what needed to happen for somebody to catch up to Hendrick Motorsports and Chevrolet. To an extent, this is still true; William Byron and Kyle Larson are two of the four drivers who have won multiple races this season, with Byron leading everybody with four trips to victory lane.

However, the team’s other two drivers, Alex Bowman and Chase Elliott, are not only winless, but they are at risk of missing the playoffs for the first time since joining the team as full-time drivers.

Bowman has been with Rick Hendrick’s team since 2018, and he has never failed to make it to the round of 12. As for Elliott, he has been with the team since 2016, and he too has never failed to make it to the round of 12. The 2020 champion hasn’t missed the round of 8 since 2016, and he hasn’t missed the Championship 4 since 2019.

With six of 26 races remaining on the regular season schedule, Bowman sits in 20th place in the point standings, 42 points below the playoff cut line, while Elliott sits in 23rd, 60 points behind.

Both drivers could still win their way into the postseason, as both have won at multiple tracks where the Cup Series is scheduled to run before the playoffs. Getting in on points is not out of the question, either.

One of the primary reasons why these Hendrick Motorsports drivers are in the positions they are in is because of unexpected absences earlier in the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season.

Bowman missed three races with a broken vertebra he suffered in a sprint car crash, and Elliott missed six races with a fractured left tibia he suffered in a snowboarding accident. Elliott also missed another race after being suspended for an on-track run-in with Denny Hamlin at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May.

Elliott’s points per race average isn’t terrible; he would rank ninth in the standings, just two points behind Larson, if he had competed in all 20 races so far this season with that average, and he would be 140 points above the cut line as the highest non-winner in the standings. He would be solidly in the playoffs.

And while his season has been viewed as a “down” season, he actually has a better average finish (11.8) than he did last season (12.5), when he led the series in wins, laps led, and total points scored.

Bowman, on the other hand, has struggled. He led the point standings for multiple races earlier this season for the first time in his career. In the season’s first seven races, he recorded six top nine finishes. But in his 10 starts since, he hasn’t finished in the top 10.

Bowman was hit with a significant 60-point penalty after the April race at Richmond Raceway, so he would be 18 points ahead of the cut line right now if not for that penalty. But even excluding that penalty, his points per race average would only have him sitting in 13th place in the standings, if he had he competed in all 20 events.

It goes without saying that that’s a big difference from leading, but it stands to reason, considering the fact that it has been more than three months since he finished higher than 11th place. It’s almost amazing that he would still be in the playoff picture at all.

FanDuel Sportsbook, which is now offering an instant $100 to fans who bet $5, lists Elliott, who opened up the season as the betting favorite to win a second championship, as the 10th favorite to win this year’s title at +2000. Bowman is listed in a tie for 14th at +5000.

Odds and availability are always subject to change, so be sure to lock in your $100 today!

Pocono Raceway is scheduled to host this Sunday afternoon’s 400, and the Tricky Triangle is a track at which Bowman won in 2021 and Elliott won in 2022.

Elliott is listed at +1600 to win this 160-lap race around the three-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) Long Pond, Pennsylvania oval, while Bowman is listed at +3000.

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The 400 is set to be broadcast live on USA Network from Pocono Raceway beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 23. Begin a free trial of FuboTV and don’t miss Sunday’s race or any remaining race on this year’s NASCAR Cup Series schedule!