Regardless of what happens at Daytona International Speedway, at least one Hendrick Motorsports will fail to qualify for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.
Not since the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season has a Hendrick Motorsports driver failed to qualify for the playoffs, when what was believed to be a false positive COVID-19 test kept seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson from advancing to the postseason.
Kyle Larson joined the team as Johnson’s replacement in 2021, and in both 2021 and 2022, he and teammates Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman, and William Byron all qualified for the playoffs. But in 2023, no more than three Hendrick Motorsports will qualify for the postseason.
Byron is locked in for the fifth straight year, having won a series-high five races this season, while Larson is locked in for the third straight year, having won two.
But Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman both missed races earlier in the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, and both find themselves well below the cut line.
Elliott, who missed six races with a broken left tibia he suffered in a snowboarding accident and an additional race due to being suspended for an on-track run-in with Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin at Charlotte Motor Speedway, finds himself 101 points below the cut line heading into the regular season finale at Daytona International Speedway.
Bowman, who missed three races with a fractured vertebra he suffered in a sprint car crash, finds himself 96 points behind 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace for that 16th and final spot.
Of the 16 playoff spots, 15 have already been clinched, and no more than 60 points can be scored in an individual race. As a result, both the driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet and the driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet are set to enter Saturday night’s 160-lap Coke Zero Sugar 400 at the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) high-banked Daytona Beach, Florida oval in must-win situations.
If one of them wins, the other will fail to make the playoffs. If somebody else wins, both will fail to qualify for the postseason.
Neither driver has ever missed the postseason as a Hendrick Motorsports driver. But that is guaranteed to change.
Elliott became a full-time driver in 2016 and has never even missed the round of 12. The 2020 champion hasn’t missed the round of 8 since his rookie season, and he hasn’t missed the Championship 4 since the 2019 season. Bowman has also never missed the round of 12 since joining the team full-time in 2018.
But this season, at least one of the two will be in the battle for 17th place in the championship standings instead of for the championship itself, and worst-case scenario, half of the Hendrick Motorsports organization ends up in that battle.
FanDuel Sportsbook, which is giving fans $200 just for betting $5, lists Elliott as the +1100 favorite to win Saturday night’s regular season finale.
Bowman is listed with longer odds.
Odds and availability are subject to change, so lock in your $200 now!
The Coke Zero Sugar 400 is set to be broadcast live on NBC from Daytona International Speedway beginning at 7:00 p.m. ET this Saturday, August 26. If you have not started a free trial of FuboTV, do so now and don’t miss it!