NASCAR: Why is Chase Elliott listed as a playoff driver?

Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

Despite being eliminated, Chase Elliott is grouped with the 16 NASCAR Cup Series playoff drivers when it comes to qualifying order.

For the first time in his eight-year NASCAR Cup Series career, Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott failed to qualify for the playoffs.

While his points per race average during the regular season ranked inside the top 10, he missed seven of 26 races, six due to an injury and one due to a suspension, and failed to find victory lane for the first time since the 2017 regular season, leaving him out of the playoffs.

So why is Elliott still listed as a playoff driver in the NASCAR-issued qualifying order for this Sunday afternoon’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway?

It’s a question that came up last week and has come up again this week, and it will likely continue to come up as long as the No. 9 team remains in the owner playoffs.

And no, despite what certain circles on social media want you to believe, it has nothing to do with NASCAR “rigging” the sport for the five-time reigning Most Popular Driver Award winner.

While the 16th and final playoff spot on the driver side went to 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace, Wallace’s No. 23 team was outscored by Elliott’s No. 9 team throughout the regular season.

Keep in mind, NASCAR Cup Series owner points are tied to the car, not the driver.

So Elliott’s replacements in his seven missed starts were still able to score points for the No. 9 team. Josh Berry’s runner-up finish at Richmond Raceway in early April highlighted those seven races.

As a result, it was Elliott’s No. 9 team which earned the 16th and final spot in the owner playoffs, not Wallace’s No. 23 team. So while Elliott cannot win this year’s championship, he is still the driver on a playoff team that has a chance to win the owner championship.

And as such, he is grouped with the 16 playoff drivers when it comes to the qualifying order — and by association, in the event that qualifying were to be canceled, the starting lineup.

FanDuel Sportsbook, which is now giving fans $200 just for signing up and placing a single $5 bet, lists Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin, the May winner at Kansas, as the favorite to win Sunday afternoon’s Hollywood Casino 400.

With odds and availability subject to change, lock in your $200 today!

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USA Network is set to broadcast the Hollywood Casino 400 live from Kansas Speedway beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET this Sunday, September 10. If you have not yet had the chance to begin a free trial of FuboTV, do so today and don’t miss it!