NASCAR: Bubba Wallace’s team already eliminated?

Bubba Wallace, 23XI Racing, NASCAR (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)
Bubba Wallace, 23XI Racing, NASCAR (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) /

Bubba Wallace started his first NASCAR Cup Series playoff appearance relatively strong. Yet his No. 23 team isn’t even in the postseason.

23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace made his first NASCAR Cup Series start as a playoff driver last Sunday night at Darlington Raceway and overcame an early spin to finish in seventh place, placing himself just one point below the cut line with races at Kansas Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway remaining on the round of 16 schedule.

Wallace was the 16th and final driver to clinch a playoff spot, and he was the only driver who entered the four-round, 10-race postseason without any playoff points from the regular season. He did not win any stages or races in the regular season, and he did not finish the regular season in the top 10 in the point standings.

Wallace was the third highest ranking non-winner in the regular season standings, so with 13 playoff-eligible winners, he secured the last playoff spot.

So why is Bubba Wallace’s No. 23 team not among the 16 teams in the NASCAR Cup Series owner playoffs?

Owner points are tied to the car, not the driver. While Wallace and his No. 23 team have scored the same number of points this year, the latter only ended up as the fourth highest non-winning team in the regular season standings, as Chase Elliott’s No. 9 team finished one spot higher.

Elliott missed seven races during the regular season, six with an injury and one due to a suspension, and missed the playoffs for the first time in his eight-year career because of it.

Even with a top 10 points per race average in his 19 regular season starts, his point total was not good enough to secure one of the 16 spots, and he went winless during the regular season for the first time since 2017.

But the points scored by Elliott’s replacements during his seven missed starts were enough to vault the No. 9 team ahead of the No. 23 team in the owner standings, meaning that Elliott’s No. 9 team can still win the owner championship, even though Elliott himself can’t actually win the 2023 title.

Meanwhile, Wallace’s No. 23 team did not even make the playoffs, even though Wallace himself can technically still be crowned champion.

Wallace was in a similar situation last year, when 23XI Racing moved him to Kurt Busch’s No. 45 Toyota for the playoffs. Busch had clinched a playoff spot with a regular season win at Kansas Speedway, but he withdrew due to an injury, giving the spot to Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney. But the No. 45 team kept their spot in the owner playoffs.

As a result, Wallace was representing the No. 45 team in the battle for the owner championship, even though he personally was not a playoff driver, while Blaney’s No. 12 team did not even make the playoffs, even though Blaney was still able to advance throughout the postseason.

Following the opening race of the playoffs, FanDuel Sportsbook, which is offering fans an instant $200 just for betting $5, still lists Wallace as one of the longshots to win this year’s title at +6000, placing him ahead of only Front Row Motorsports’ Michael McDowell and JTG Daugherty Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Odds and availability are subject to change. Lock in your $200 today!

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Now Wallace is set to return to the venue where he won behind the wheel of the No. 45 Toyota in last year’s playoffs to lock the No. 45 team into the round of 12. Can he lock himself into the round of 12 for the first time with a win in this Sunday afternoon’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway? USA Network is set to provide live coverage beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET. Begin a free trial of FuboTV now!