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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Michael McDowell, Front Row Motorsports, NASCAR
Michael McDowell, Front Row Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

NASCAR playoff contenders: No. 15 – Michael McDowell

Front Row Motorsports’ Michael McDowell is set to make his second career playoff appearance, with a win at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course earlier this month locking him into the field of 16. He is looking to improve upon his first playoff appearance in 2021, which ended in a hasty first round exit.

The case for Michael McDowell

Entering the 2023 season, few people expected McDowell not only to win a race, but also to outright dominate that event. However, he did exactly that at Indianapolis, leading 54 of 82 laps and cruising to victory.

While the odds are stacked against him, McDowell has been able to squeak out some solid finishes in what were otherwise lackluster races for him this year. Given the chaos that comes with the playoffs, he could make a shocking run that sees him race for a championship in his hometown.

The case against Michael McDowell

On the flip side, the case against McDowell is much more straightforward. He enters the playoffs with only two top five finishes, six top 10 finishes and an average finish of 18.5, all of which are the lowest among the playoff drivers and even lower than the stats of several non-playoff drivers.

Entering the playoffs, McDowell sits below the projected cut line, and he will have to have several things to go his way in order to be above it by the time the round of 16 elimination race at Bristol Motor Speedway concludes.

While McDowell has proven himself as one of the top road course racers in the Cup Series, his oval results have left a lot to be desired, and with no road courses in the opening round of the playoffs, it will be a big challenge for him to advance to the round of 12.