NASCAR: The case for — and against — all 16 playoff drivers

NASCAR Cup Series Championship Trophy - Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
NASCAR Cup Series Championship Trophy - Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports /
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The 16 drivers who will be racing for a NASCAR Cup Series championship this fall each bring their own set of pros and cons to the playoffs.

After 26 hard-fought races, the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series playoff grid is set, and this year’s field of 16 drivers features a mix of usual suspects, new faces, and surprise appearances.

With the unpredictability that comes in the postseason, anything is possible when it comes to who is crowned champion at Phoenix Raceway this November.

Given the parity that has been on display this year, even the championship longshots have an opportunity to make a deep run in the playoffs and turn the heads of drivers and fans alike.

Let’s take a look at cases for and against each driver.

NASCAR playoff contenders: No. 16 – Bubba Wallace

23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace is set to make his first career playoff appearance in 2023 after securing the 16th and final spot in the regular season finale at Daytona International Speedway. After several seasons of coming up short of the playoffs, he will look to make the most out of his first appearance.

The case for Bubba Wallace

Wallace finally found some full-season consistency this year, which led to his first career playoff berth. Should he continue his consistency into the playoffs, it would give him a very strong chance at potentially advancing a few rounds. Don’t forget he got the No. 45 team to the round of 12 last year as Kurt Busch’s replacement.

Much like last season, Wallace has had race-winning speed on intermediate tracks, especially the 1.5-mile ovals, including Kansas Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, and Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

And as luck would have it, both Kansas and Las Vegas are on the playoff schedule, with the former in the opening round. Wallace won last year’s playoff race at Kansas in convincing fashion, and there is no reason why he can’t repeat this year.

It’s been a long journey for Wallace, but he finally has the chance to show just what he is capable of on one of the biggest stages in racing.

The case against Bubba Wallace

Having consistent speed like Wallace has had this year is always a plus, but that can only take you so far. The playoffs are oriented towards winning races, and Wallace has yet to do that this year.

He enters the 2023 playoffs as the number 16 seed and the only playoff driver without any playoff points. He will need to have three straight strong finishes should he wish to make it out of the round of 16. Eventually, those strong finishes will need to turn into wins, or Wallace will be eliminated rather early.