NASCAR: Top 16 driver in points misses Cup playoffs

Daniel Suarez, Trackhouse Racing Team, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Daniel Suarez, Trackhouse Racing Team, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

Despite a top 16 finish in the regular season standings, Daniel Suarez was unable to secure a second consecutive NASCAR Cup Series playoff berth.

Despite a fourth place finish in the regular season standings, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. failed to qualify for the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs because of the fact that the regular season saw 16 different winners. He was not one of them.

In fact, Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney wasn’t slated to qualify for the playoffs either, but 23XI Racing’s Kurt Busch gave up his spot as a result of an injury.

Blaney, who ended up being the only driver to get in on points, finished the regular season standings in third place and was actually poised to miss the playoffs even with a second place finish before Busch’s withdrawal.

Things were not nearly as drastic this season as far as drivers toward the top of the point standings missing the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

But like last year — and pretty much every other year since the modern playoff format was introduced in 2014 — a top 16 driver did once again fail to lock into one of the 16 playoff spots.

Trackhouse Racing Team’s Daniel Suarez, who made it to the playoffs for the first time in his sixth full season in the sport last year thanks to his victory at Sonoma Raceway, finished in 16th place in the regular season point standings.

But he can finish no higher than 17th in the overall standings, as he will not join teammate Ross Chastain in this year’s postseason.

Of the 15 drivers higher than Suarez in the standings, 12 locked themselves into the playoffs by winning at least one regular season race. However, there was a 13th winner who finished below him, that being JTG Daugherty Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

That left just three spots open for drivers to qualify on points, and Suarez ranked fourth in points among non-winners behind RFK Racing’s Brad Keselowski, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick, and 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace all beat him in that category.

Suarez was one of six drivers who qualified for last year’s playoffs but not this year’s. The other five include Hendrick Motorsports teammates Alex Bowman and Chase Elliott, Team Penske’s Austin Cindric, Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon, and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe.

While Truex generated much of the attention last year, there were actually two drivers in the top 16 who didn’t make it in. Erik Jones also missed the playoffs with a 16th place finish — and then proceeded to win the playoff opener at Darlington Raceway as a non-playoff driver.

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

Can Suarez do the same? Sunday’s Cook Out Southern 500 is set to be broadcast live on USA Network from Darlington Raceway beginning at 6:00 p.m. ET. Start a free trial of FuboTV and don’t miss it!