NASCAR: Chase Elliott can still win the championship

Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) /

While Chase Elliott cannot become a two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion this year, he can still win the owner championship for the No. 9 team.

Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott failed to qualify for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, marking the first time he has ever failed to qualify for the postseason in his eight-year career.

23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace secured the 16th and final spot, qualifying on points after a new winner did not emerge in the regular season finale at Daytona International Speedway.

Yet Elliott can still win the owner championship for his No. 9 team, while Wallace’s No. 23 team is no longer in the running.

The reason for this is the fact that NASCAR Cup Series owner points are tied to the car, not the driver.

The driver playoffs and the owner playoffs are two entirely separate postseasons, even though the latter rarely generates much attention. That fact is not all that surprising, since generally the drivers who make the playoffs have driven the same car all year.

So while Elliott’s seven missed races earlier this season did him no favors in the driver standings, the No. 9 team still scored points while he was out, based on where his replacements finished. Josh Berry finished as high as second place in the No. 9 Chevrolet at Richmond Raceway.

The 13 drivers who qualified for the playoffs by winning also locked their teams into the owner playoffs by winning, leaving three spots open in each.

Two of the three remaining spots in the driver playoffs went to RFK Racing’s Brad Keselowski and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick on points, and two of the three remaining spots in the owner playoffs went to Keselowski’s No. 6 team and Harvick’s No. 4 team on points.

But in the owner playoffs, the final spot went to Elliott’s No. 9 team, not Wallace’s No. 23 team.

We saw a similar situation unfold last year after 23XI Racing’s Kurt Busch gave up his playoff spot due to his injury. While that spot went to Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney, Busch’s No. 45 team retained their spot in the owner playoffs; Blaney’s No. 12 team did not get in.

23XI Racing moved Wallace from the No. 23 Toyota to the No. 45 Toyota for the postseason and Wallace got to represent the No. 45 team in the owner playoffs, even though he personally was not a playoff driver. He even advanced the team to the round of 12 with a round of 16 victory at Kansas Speedway.

In fact, as things turned out in regard where the cutoffs ended up at the end of each round due to the differences, Elliott qualified for the Championship 4 while his No. 9 team did not. Meanwhile, teammate Kyle Larson was eliminated in the round of 12, but his No. 5 team made it to the Championship 4.

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This year’s playoffs are scheduled to begin on Sunday, September 3 with the Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. USA Network is set to provide live coverage starting at 6:00 p.m. ET. Begin a free trial of FuboTV now and don’t miss it!