NASCAR: First-time points leader misses playoffs

Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

Alex Bowman spent time atop the NASCAR Cup Series point standings for the first time in his career in 2023. But he failed to qualify for the playoffs.

Everything looked to be going right for Hendrick Motorsports’ Alex Bowman to open up the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, leaving little doubt that he would make it six for six in terms of playoff appearances — and potentially round of 12 appearances — since joining Rick Hendrick’s team as a full-time driver in 2018.

He secured six top nine finishes in the season’s first seven races and did not finish lower than 14th, and that success resulted in him sitting atop the point standings after three straight races in March.

It marked the first time that a driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet had been the points leader since Jimmie Johnson won his record-tying seventh championship in 2016, and it marked the first time that a driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet had actually been the true points leader without any playoff resets since Johnson won the 2013 title.

But things quickly went south for Alex Bowman following the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season’s seventh race at Richmond Raceway.

Bowman and the No. 48 team, plus teammate William Byron and his No. 24 team, were docked 60 points and five playoff points each due to a greenhouse violation.

While Byron was largely able to overcome the penalty, finishing the regular season with a series-high five wins and entering the playoffs as the number one seed, things got even worse for his teammate.

Bowman was injured in a sprint car crash following the season’s 10th race at Talladega Superspeedway.

A fractured vertebra left him sidelined from Cup Series competition for four weeks. Fortunately for him, one of the four races he missed was the All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway, which paid no points. However, that did not make a difference.

Bowman finished no higher than 12th place in his first 10 races back from injury, and while he closed out the regular season with two top six finishes in the final three races, it was too little, too late. Even without his 60-point penalty, he would have finished behind 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace for the 16th and final playoff spot.

His elimination ends five-year streaks of not only getting into the playoffs but advancing to the round of 12. He could technically still extend his four-year winning streak, however, by finding victory lane at some point over the course of the season’s final 10 races.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. is listed as the +400 favorite to win this year’s championship at FanDuel Sportsbook, which is giving fans $200 just for signing up and betting $5.

Odds and availability subject to change. Lock in your $200 today!

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

Darlington Raceway is scheduled to host the playoff opener this Sunday, September 3. The Cook Out Southern 500 is set to be broadcast live on USA Network beginning at 6:00 p.m. ET. Begin a free trial of FuboTV now if you haven’t already done so!