The one driver who finds himself in a must-win situation with two races left in the round of 8 isn’t even one of the remaining eight NASCAR Cup Series playoff drivers.
Following the round of 8 opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney found himself 17 points below the NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 cut line.
After being disqualified, he dropped to 56 points behind, effectively putting him in a must-win situation heading into the final two round of 8 races at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Martinsville Speedway.
But his disqualification was overturned, bringing him back to just 17 points behind the cutoff heading into the middle race of the semifinal round at Homestead. The lowest of the eight remaining championship contenders is RFK Racing’s Chris Buescher, who sits 23 points out.
With Buescher only 23 points back, there is nobody in a true must-win situation in the NASCAR Cup Series driver playoffs.
But in the owner playoffs, that’s a different story.
As has been extensively documented throughout the first seven races of the playoffs, Chase Elliott’s No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports team remains in the owner playoffs, despite the fact that Elliott himself did not manage to qualify for the postseason for the first time in his career.
The No. 9 team knocked out Martin Truex Jr.’s No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing team to end the round of 12, even though Truex himself is still in title contention.
Elliott had a disastrous race at Las Vegas, finishing in 32nd place without any stage points, and his No. 9 team finds itself sitting 61 points below the Championship 4 cut line in the owner playoffs.
The five-time reigning Most Popular Driver has not yet won this year, though he does own one win at Martinsville in 2020, a win that sent him to the Championship 4 at Phoenix Raceway where he was ultimately crowned champion.
Can he get his No. 9 team back to the Championship 4 for the first time since 2021 (the team missed it in 2022, despite Elliott’s appearance on the driver side) and potentially capture an owner championship as a non-playoff driver?
The round of 8 is set to continue this weekend with the second of its three races. The 4Ever 400 is scheduled to take place this Sunday, October 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, with NBC set to provide live coverage beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET. Begin a free trial of FuboTV now and don’t miss it!