Chris Buescher’s Michigan International Speedway win officially means that all winners are locked into the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.
RFK Racing’s Chris Buescher became the 12th different playoff eligible winner of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season when he took the checkered flag to win the Cook Out 400 at Richmond Raceway two Sundays ago.
With four races remaining on the regular season schedule after Buescher’s third career victory, there could be no more than 16 different playoff eligible winners in the regular season.
However, because there was still a possibility of the regular season champion being a winless driver, not all of the race winners were absolutely locked into the playoffs.
The 16 playoff spots go to the regular season champion and the 15 drivers who rank next highest in wins. This means that even with 16 regular season winners, there could have been 17 playoff eligible drivers, which would have resulted in the lowest ranking single-race winner in the standings missing the postseason.
But this past Monday in the rain-postponed FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway, Buescher secured a second straight victory.
As a result, all full-time race winners are officially locked into the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.
Even if the regular season champion ends up being winless and new winners emerge in the final three regular season races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, Watkins Glen International, and Daytona International Speedway, those three winners — along with the 12 playoff eligible drives who have already won this year — are locked into the postseason.
Such a scenario would fill the 16 playoff spots without leaving any winners on the outside looking in.
A winless regular season champion is also highly unlikely, as the highest-ranking winless driver in the point standings is currently Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick. Harvick trails Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. by 136 points.
A non-winner can score as many as 55 points in a single race — 10 for winning stage one, 10 for winning stage two, and 35 for placing second in the race itself. As a result, a driver can make up as many as 54 points on another driver in a single race without winning, since drivers who compete are guaranteed to score at least one point.
The fact that the regular season champion will likely be a race winner all but guarantees that at least somebody will get into the playoffs on points, since there can be no longer be more than 15 regular season race winners.
Note that the list of 12 full-time race winners so far this season does not include Trackhouse Racing Team’s Shane van Gisbergen, who won the inaugural race on the Chicago Street Course in early July. That race is the only race in which van Gisbergen has competed this year, so he is not eligible for the playoffs, though he is set to return for this weekend’s race.
The 24th of 26 races on the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series regular season schedule is the Verizon 200 at the Brickyard, which is scheduled to be broadcast live on NBC from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET this Sunday, August 13. If you have not already begun a free trial of FuboTV, do so today!