NASCAR: 3 preseason predictions we got terribly wrong

Noah Gragson, Legacy Motor Club, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Noah Gragson, Legacy Motor Club, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /
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Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR playoffs
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR playoffs (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) /

Terrible NASCAR predictions: No. 3 – Chase Elliott to win the championship

Okay, this one wasn’t an official prediction (beyond writing about him as the preseason betting favorite), but I can confirm that Chase Elliott was indeed my pick to win the 2023 championship after a 2022 season which saw him lead all drivers in wins, total points scored laps led, and average finish.

Given that the 2022 season was year number one with the Next Gen car, it was hard to argue against his status as this year’s betting favorite.

He also entered the 2023 season as the only driver to have won multiple races for five straight seasons, the only driver to have recorded seven straight top 10 finishes in the championship standings, the only driver to have made it to seven straight rounds of 8, and the only driver to have made it to three consecutive Championship 4 finales.

How quickly things changed.

Elliott missed six races due to an injury he suffered while snowboarding, and as it began to look like he might be able to claw his way into the playoffs even without a win, he missed another race after an ill-advised retaliation move on Denny Hamlin at Charlotte Motor Speedway led to a suspension.

He failed to make the playoffs on points and did not win any of the 19 regular season races he started, keeping him out of the postseason for the first time in his eight-year career and relegating him to a 17th place finish in the standings, which was arguably more frustrating for him than watching the Atlanta Braves choke in the playoffs again to the same team.

Having said that, his season wasn’t nearly as disastrous as it was made out to be. His No. 9 team still got into the owner playoffs since his replacements in his seven missed starts scored points, and he led the team to a seventh straight round of 8 appearance.

His overall points per race average ended up being among the top 10 in the series; not bad for a down year.

But also certainly not a championship.

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

Having said that, I’m not putting it past Elliott to win it all in 2024. Look at what Joey Logano did in 2018 after missing the playoffs in 2017. Heck, even Ryan Blaney’s No. 12 team wasn’t in last year’s owner playoffs, with Blaney himself only getting into the 2022 postseason because another driver was injured.