NASCAR: Entire team at risk of missing Cup playoffs?

Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

Stewart-Haas Racing only have one driver in the provisional NASCAR Cup Series playoff picture, and that driver suddenly isn’t safe.

Stewart-Haas Racing have once again had a down NASCAR Cup Series season. The best team in the series from a few years ago has suddenly become arguably only the fourth strongest team within their own manufacturer, with fellow Ford teams Team Penske, RFK Racing, and Front Row Motorsports all boasting wins this year.

As for Stewart-Haas Racing, they have just one driver sitting in the top 23 in the point standings. Kevin Harvick sits in sixth place in the standings as the highest-ranking non-winner.

Harvick entered Sunday’s race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course with a 180-point cushion over the playoff cut line, and he still sits 145 points above the cutoff. But even he is far from locked into the 16-driver postseason.

Front Row Motorsports’ Michael McDowell won Sunday afternoon’s Verizon 200 at the Brickyard to become the 2023 season’s 13th different playoff eligible race winner.

With two regular season races remaining on the schedule, McDowell’s win leaves just three spots in the provisional NASCAR Cup Series playoff picture open for non-winners.

And that number could still drop to as low as one.

Harvick is still the top non-winner, placing him in 14th place in the playoff picture. But he sits just two points ahead of RFK Racing’s Brad Keselowski for that 14th spot.

With two races remaining on the regular season schedule, one at Watkins Glen International and another at Daytona International Speedway, it is very possible that two more new winners could emerge.

Just look at who else finished Sunday’s race in the top three: non-winners Chase Elliott and Daniel Suarez. The Hendrick Motorsports driver is a two-time winner at Watkins Glen and a seven-time road course winner, and the Trackhouse Racing Team driver should also be one of the favorites this coming weekend, given his success in Next Gen road course events.

And of course, Daytona is always the biggest wild card on the schedule, given the pack-style racing and drafting produced by superspeedways.

If two new winners emerge over the next two race weekends and Keselowski manages to pass Harvick in the point standings, Harvick would miss the playoffs in his final season in the Cup Series.

And if those new winners do not include Aric Almirola, Ryan Preece, or Chase Briscoe, then Stewart-Haas Racing’s entire four-car operation could be left out of the postseason, which would be a new low amid the team’s current funk.

DraftKings Sportsbook, which is offering fans $150 just for betting $5, lists Harvick at +2000 to win this year’s championship. Almirola and Briscoe are both listed at +30000, with Preece listed at +50000.

Odds refresh periodically, and availability is subject to change. So lock in your $150 now before it’s too late!

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