NASCAR: Chase Elliott closing in on inevitable ‘achievement’

Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images)
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images) /

Chase Elliott’s failure to qualify for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs means he cannot finish higher than 17th in the point standings. He is already almost there.

Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott finished the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series regular season with a top 10 points per race average.

But because he missed seven of the 26 races, he did not finish in the top 16 in the point standings. And because he failed to win a race for the first time since the 2017 regular season, he missed the playoffs for the first time in his eight-year career.

The driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet missed six races in March and April with a fractured left tibia he suffered in a snowboarding accident, and he missed another race in June after being suspended by NASCAR for retaliating against Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Fortunately for Elliott, he still has something to fight for. He still has the chance to make the 2023 season his sixth straight winning season, and he still has the chance to make it a series-high sixth straight multi-win season.

Additionally, his No. 9 team qualified for the owner playoffs, as the points scored by his replacements during his seven missed starts allowed them to secure the 16th and final spot.

So he is, in a roundabout way, still trying to win the 2023 championship, and through the first two playoff races, he has the No. 9 team well-positioned to advance to the round of 12, as it sits in eighth place in the owner standings.

But beyond all that, one thing has seemed inevitable for Chase Elliott ever since he failed to qualify for the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

After returning from his suspension, Elliott hovered around 20th place in the point standings until the regular season concluded, and he finished in 20th. But given his points per race average, he entered the postseason poised to finish the season as the highest non-playoff driver.

And now just two races into the playoffs, both of which he finished in the top eight, Elliott sits just six points behind Joe Gibbs Racing rookie Ty Gibbs for that 17th spot. This season, he has averaged 28.57 points per race, compared to Gibbs’ 21.64 mark, so it shouldn’t be too long before he moves up and ultimately starts to pull away.

Elliott is already three points ahead of Trackhouse Racing Team’s Daniel Suarez, who actually finished the regular season in the top 16 in points but missed the playoffs because one of the drivers below him, JTG Daugherty Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr., won a regular season race.

In fact, ignoring playoff resets, Elliott is actually 17th in points right now, placing him ahead of Front Row Motorsports’ Michael McDowell, one of the playoff drivers.

At this point, it would be shocking if Elliott doesn’t comfortably finish 17th place in the point standings. Ignoring playoff resets, as high as 14th in total points is possible.

It’s certainly not what he wanted entering the season, but it’s the best thing available over the next weeks. He’s already almost there.

Next. All-time NASCAR Cup Series wins list. dark

Plus, an ascension to 17th place should correlate with the No. 9 team advancing through the owner playoffs. Breaking a nearly year-long win drought at some point in the near future would certainly help the team’s case for an owner title as well.