NASCAR race winner at risk of missing the playoffs?

Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, Pocono Raceway, NASCAR (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, Pocono Raceway, NASCAR (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images) /

Following Denny Hamlin’s win at Pocono Raceway, there can no longer be more than 16 playoff-eligible winners in the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series regular season.

One year after he thought he had earned a record-breaking seventh NASCAR Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway, only to be disqualified from the event following post-race inspection, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin officially secured win number seven at the Tricky Triangle last Sunday afternoon.

Hamlin’s victory in this 160-lap 400 around the three-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) Long Pond, Pennsylvania oval was his second win of the season, as he also won at Kansas Speedway back in early May.

A new winner hasn’t emerged since Shane van Gisbergen won on debut for Trackhouse Racing Team in the inaugural Cup Series street race at the new Chicago Street Course four weekends ago, and a new playoff-eligible winner hasn’t emerged since Trackhouse Racing Team’s Ross Chastain won at Nashville Superspeedway five weekends ago.

As a result, the provisional NASCAR Cup Series playoff picture still features 11 winners, with five spots still open.

Five drivers have won multiple races this season, including Hamlin, teammate Martin Truex Jr., Hendrick Motorsports teammates William Byron and Kyle Larson, and Richard Childress Racing’s Kyle Busch.

These drivers are all locked into the playoffs, since the 16 playoff spots officially go to the regular season champion and the 15 drivers who rank next highest in wins. There can be no more than 13 multi-race winners in the 26-race regular season.

Six playoff-eligible drivers have won once, including Chastain, JTG Daugherty Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell, and Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney.

Winning once doesn’t necessarily secure a driver a playoff spot, since there can be more than 16 playoff eligible drivers by the time the regular season concludes.

In the event that there are more than 16 race winners (or more than 15, should the series end up with a winless regular season champion), the tiebreaker to determine which one-race winners qualify for the playoffs and which don’t becomes points. The lowest of these drivers in the point standings is currently Stenhouse in 14th place.

But there are now just five races remaining on the regular season schedule, meaning that there cannot be any more than 16 regular season race winners.

Still, the six single-race winners haven’t mathematically secured their playoff spots. If five new winners emerge over the course of the regular season’s final five races and the regular season champion ends up being a winless driver, there will be 17 playoff eligible drivers, meaning that one of them will miss the postseason.

However, the chances of this happening are slim to none. Not only will it be difficult for five new winners to emerge in the next five races, but it will also be difficult for the regular season champion to be a winless driver.

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick is currently the highest winless driver in the point standings, and he sits in eighth place, 110 points out of the lead. Without winning, a driver can only score up to 55 points per race. Harvick is the only winless driver in the top 11.

So it’s safe to say that all drivers who have won so far this season, plus whichever (if any) drivers end up securing their first wins of the season over the next five weekends, are headed to the playoffs.

FanDuel Sportsbook, which is offering fans an instant $100 just for betting $5, lists Truex as the favorite to win this year’s title at +550.

Odds and availability are subject to change, so lock in your $100 today before it’s too late!

dark. Next. All-time NASCAR Cup Series wins list

The 22nd race on the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Cook Out 400, which is scheduled to take place this coming Sunday, July 30 at Richmond Raceway. USA Network is set to broadcast the race live beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET. Begin a free trial of FuboTV now and don’t miss it!