NASCAR: Half of the Hendrick drivers could be in jeopardy

Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports
Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports /

Two Hendrick Motorsports drivers find themselves in precarious positions with five races remaining on the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series regular season schedule.

Hendrick Motorsports teammates Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman have missed a combined 10 NASCAR Cup Series races throughout the 2023 season.

Elliott suffered a fractured left tibia in a snowboarding crash and missed six races, and Bowman suffered a fractured vertebra in a sprint car crash and missed three races.

Elliott also missed a race after he was suspended for an on-track run-in with Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin at Charlotte Motor Speedway, bringing his absence total to seven.

There are now just five races remaining on the 26-race regular season, and Bowman and Elliott find themselves well below the playoff cut line. Bowman sits in 20th place in the point standings, 46 points below the cut line, while Elliott sits in 21st, 56 points back.

Both drivers can mathematically still get into the postseason on points.

But the playoff cut line could also still move up if there are more new winners, which means their best bet is to win.

Considering the fact that Bowman was docked 60 points after the race at Richmond Raceway in April, the point total he is actually responsible for scoring would place him 14 points above the playoff cut line right now, despite the fact that he has missed three races.

Unfortunately for Bowman, he is on a bit of a cold streak. After opening the season with six top nine finishes in seven races and spending multiple races at the top of the point standings, he has not recorded a single top 10 finish in 11 starts.

With no missed starts, his points per race average would only have him sitting in 15th place in the point standings, but he would still be 82 points above the cut line.

As for Elliott, he has actually had a decent season, despite the narrative being that he has had a “down” year. His average finish of 11.7 leads all full-time drivers and is actually higher than his series-leading 12.5 average finish from last year, when he also led all drivers in wins, laps led, and total points scored.

With no missed starts, his points per race average would have him sitting in ninth place in the point standings, 134 points above the cut line and safely in the provisional playoff picture.

Alas, both Alex Bowman and Chase Elliott still have a lot of work to do to get into the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

Both drivers have been granted playoff waivers, meaning that their missed starts don’t count against their playoff eligibility. However, those missed starts do still count as zeroes in the point standings, and those zeroes could come back to bite them both.

Hendrick Motorsports’ other two drivers, William Byron and Kyle Larson, are both locked into the playoffs with multiple wins. Byron leads all drivers with four wins — and would be leading all drivers in total points if not for his own 60-point penalty — while Larson has won twice.

The regular season is set to conclude with races at Richmond Raceway (Sunday, July 30), Michigan International Speedway (Sunday, August 6), the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course (Sunday, August 13), Watkins Glen International (Sunday, August 20), and Daytona International Speedway (Saturday, August 26).

FanDuel Sportsbook, which is now offering fans an instant $100 just for betting $5, lists Elliott, the preseason championship favorite, at +2500 to win this year’s title. Bowman is listed at +5000.

Odds and availability remain subject to change. Lock in your $100 now!

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Bowman is a former winner at Richmond (2021), while Elliott is a two-time winner at Watkins Glen (2018 and 2019). Begin a free trial of FuboTV now and don’t miss any of the five remaining races on the regular season schedule!