NASCAR: Bubba Wallace’s team was already eliminated

Bubba Wallace, 23XI Racing, NASCAR playoffs (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)
Bubba Wallace, 23XI Racing, NASCAR playoffs (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images) /

The four drivers eliminated in the round of 16 of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs were also the four whose teams were eliminated.

While 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace earned the 16th and final spot in the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, it was Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott whose No. 9 team beat out Wallace’s No. 23 team for the 16th and final spot in the owner playoffs.

Elliott missed seven races, which ultimately played a huge role in him missing the postseason for the first time in his eight-year career, but his replacements in those races could still score points for the No. 9 team, and that put the team over the top.

Despite the driver and owner playoffs effectively featuring two unique 16-competitor fields (albeit with only one change) encompassing 17 cars, the four drivers eliminated after the round of 16 finale at Bristol Motor Speedway were also the four drivers whose teams were knocked out.

Why? Because Elliott did enough for his No. 9 team to advance in the owner playoffs, which do not feature the No. 23 team, and Wallace did enough to advance in the driver playoffs, which do not feature Elliott.

Kevin Harvick, Harvick’s No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team, Joey Logano, Logano’s No. 22 Team Penske team, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Stenhouse’s No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing team, Michael McDowell, and McDowell’s No. 34 Front Row Motorsports team have all been eliminated.

While this may seem like common sense, it is important for NASCAR fans to understand that this was far from a guarantee.

Had Logano, for instance, been the 12th and final driver to secure a spot in the round of 12 ahead of Wallace, he would have advanced while his team still would have been eliminated.

The No. 22 team still finished behind the No. 9 team and would have been in 13th, while Logano himself wouldn’t have had to worry about Elliott on the driver side and thus would have retained 12th. The same can be said for Harvick, Stenhouse, and McDowell and their respective teams.

We saw a similar situation — several, in fact — unfold last season, due to there being a non-playoff driver competing for a playoff team and a playoff driver competing for a non-playoff team.

Two such examples were the fact that Elliott made the Championship 4 while his No. 9 team did not, while Kyle Larson was eliminated in the round of 12 yet his No. 5 team made it to the Championship 4. Yet the whole playoff/non-playoff situation didn’t involve either, as it revolved around Wallace moving to the injured Kurt Busch’s No. 45 team.

Bottom line, things got slightly complicated in last year’s playoffs. But after this year’s round of 16, things were quite simple. Wallace moved on, the No. 9 team moved on, and every eliminated driver also saw their team knocked out.

But depending on the positioning of the No. 9 team in the owner standings and Wallace in the driver standings moving forward, that is far from a sure thing during the round of 12 and the round of 8 — and even possibly the Championship 4.

We could end up seeing a driver eliminated in the round of 12 whose team goes on to win the owner championship, and we could end up seeing a team eliminated in the round of 12 whose driver goes on to win the driver championship.

Heck, we could technically see both Wallace and the No. 9 team win their respective titles, despite the No. 23 team and Elliott having no upside above 17th place in the standings. It would be bizarre to say the least, but there is theoretically a 1 in 144 chance that it happens.

FanDuel Sportsbook, which is running a promotion giving fans an instant and guaranteed $200, lists Wallace as a +10000 longshot to win this year’s championship.

Odds and availability are subject to change, so lock in your $200 now before it’s too late!

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Texas Motor Speedway is scheduled to get the round of 12 underway with the Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400 on Sunday, September 24, with USA Network set to provide live coverage of the fourth race on the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series playoff schedule beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET. Start a free trial of FuboTV now if you have not already done so!