NASCAR playoff drivers who won’t be back: No. 3 – Bubba Wallace
Last year, I listed five drivers who I thought would make the playoffs for the first time in 2023, and Bubba Wallace was the only one of them who came through. Despite making it in as the 16th and final driver, he was able to advance to the round of 12 before nearly making it to the round of 8 with a victory at Texas Motor Speedway.
But I have the 23XI Racing driver listed here for a number of reasons. First of all, had Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott not missed seven regular season races, he would have gotten Wallace’s playoff spot, an assumption made based on the fact that the No. 9 team outscored the No. 23 team in the regular season, leaving the latter out of the owner playoffs.
Secondly, what Wallace is probably going to need to do to prove me wrong is to win. It’s something he has done twice, once in 2021 and once in 2022, but he has never done it in the regular season.
In fact, he is the winningest non-playoff driver in playoff history, having won playoff races in both of those years despite the fact that he failed to qualify for the postseason both times.
The 2024 season is set to be his seventh full season in the Cup Series and already his fourth with the Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan-owned team. Having just finished a season in which first-year teammate Tyler Reddick won twice, there is going to be an added pressure on him to end that regular season win drought.