NASCAR: Why is Chase Elliott still in the playoffs?

Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR playoffs - Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR playoffs - Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports /

A non-playoff driver in Chase Elliott is still in contention for a 2023 NASCAR Cup Series championship heading into the round of 8 of the playoffs.

This year’s 16-driver NASCAR Cup Series playoff field did not include Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott, marking the first time a postseason has been contested without the Dawsonville, Georgia native in contention since before he became a full-time driver in 2016.

Elliott missed more than a quarter of the regular season, and he was unable to win any of the 19 races in which he competed. His point total in those races was not good enough to lock in, and the 16th and final playoff spot went to 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace.

But the 16th and final spot in the owner playoffs went Elliott’s No. 9 team, as his replacements in the seven races he missed were still able to score points. Driver points are tied to the drivers, while owner points are tied to the cars, not the drivers.

So while Elliott isn’t one of this year’s 16 playoff drivers, he entered the postseason as one of 17 drivers still competing for a title.

Chase Elliot still has the opportunity to deliver Rick Hendrick’s No. 9 team a second NASCAR Cup Series owner championship since 2020.

Despite the No. 9 team having entered the playoffs with only a single playoff point, that which Elliott earned by winning stage one of the April race at Talladega Superspeedway, he has taken the No. 9 team to the round of 8 with a strong start to the postseason.

He reeled off three consecutive top eight finishes in the round of 16 to get to the round of 12, and he reeled off three consecutive top 11 finishes in the round of 12 to advance to the semifinal round.

Elliott also earned an extra playoff point by winning stage two of the round of 12 race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, though the No. 9 team is still set to enter the round of 8 with the lowest playoff point total among the remaining contenders, placing it as the lowest of four teams below the Championship 4 cut line to open up the round.

With an eliminated driver still competing for an owner title, this inherently means that one of the remaining eight championship-contending drivers has already had his team eliminated.

Through the round of 12, that driver had been Wallace, since he advanced from the round of 16 to the round of 12 despite his No. 23 team having not even qualified for the postseason, but now it is Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr.

Truex was the eighth and final driver to lock into the round of 8, but with Elliott’s No. 9 team in contention on the owner side, Truex’s No. 19 team ended the round of 12 ninth in the owner standings, just below the cut line.

FanDuel Sportsbook, which is currently handing out a guaranteed $200 to fans who bet $5 on any driver to win the championship, lists Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron as this year’s favorite.

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

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

Elliott is set to continue the No. 9 team’s pursuit for a second owner championship in four years this Sunday, October 15 in the round of 8 opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The South Point 400 is set to be broadcast live on NBC beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET. Begin a free trial of FuboTV today if you have not already done so and don’t miss it!