Chase Elliott leads all NASCAR Cup Series drivers in average finish, despite his season having been viewed by many as a “down year”.
Sitting in 21st place in the point standings, Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott finds himself 56 points below the NASCAR Cup Series playoff cut line with just five races remaining on the 26-race regular season schedule, largely because he has missed seven of the season’s first 21 races.
He was sidelined for six races after suffering a fractured left tibia in a snowboarding accident, and he missed another race after being suspended for an on-track run-in with Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
As a result, the 27-year-old Dawsonville, Georgia native finds himself at risk of missing the playoffs for the first time since becoming a full-time Cup Series driver in 2016. In fact, he has never failed to make it to the round of 12, and he hasn’t failed to make it to the round of 8 since 2016. The 2020 champion hasn’t failed to make the Championship 4 since 2019.
Even in his 14 starts in the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, Chase Elliott has been perceived as having had a “down year”.
But while the driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet hasn’t won a race, he leads all full-time drivers in average finish, having not placed lower than 13th, aside from two DNFs.
His 11.7 average finish is actually better than his mark last year (12.5), which led the series. He also led the series in wins, laps led, and total points a year ago. The second best average finish this season belongs to Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr., whose mark is 11.9. Truex leads the point standings and has won three races in 2023.
Elliott also has more top five finishes than six of the 16 drivers who are currently in the provisional playoff picture. He has finished everywhere in the top five except for first place so far this year, and he has done it in a limited number of starts.
There is no doubt that Elliott has a lot of work left to do to qualify for the playoffs for an eighth straight season. It might even take a win, even though his 56-point deficit to the cut line is far from insurmountable. But it’s not as if he has performed poorly. In fact, in six races since returning from his suspension, his average finish is 7.83, and he has recorded three top five results.
What has been a huge hinderance to his point total is the fact that he has only scored stage points in four of his 14 starts this season, including just one of his most recent nine. This is a bit surprising, considering he led all drivers in stage points last year, and it has made his path to the postseason that much more difficult.
FanDuel Sportsbook, which is offering fans an instant $100 just for signing up and betting $5, lists Elliott at +2500 to win this year’s championship. He opened the year as the preseason favorite.
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