NASCAR: 5 championship contenders who could miss the playoffs entirely

Five usual contenders to win the NASCAR Cup Series championship are at risk of missing the 2024 playoffs entirely.
Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR
Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR / Todd Kirkland/GettyImages
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2. Kyle Busch

Kyle Busch had an amazing start to his stint with Richard Childress Racing last season, winning three races in the first half of the year and establishing himself as one of the championship favorites.

Coming off of a disappointing end to his 15-year run with Joe Gibbs Racing, the resurgent two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion looked ready to challenge for a third title with a resurgent program that had not seen much Cup Series success over the last decade-plus.

But the second half of the year was a disaster for the driver of the No. 8 Chevrolet, and he ended up with his worst finish in the point standings since his rookie season with Hendrick Motorsports in 2005. While he found himself atop the point standings following the 2024 season's second race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the start to this year hasn't gone much better overall.

Busch has just two top five finishes and three more top 10 finishes this year, and he only sits 12 points above the playoff cut line. And while teammate Austin Dillon may not be the best benchmark, the fact that Richard Childress Racing's other driver finds himself in 31st in the point standings with just two top 20 finishes goes to show that Busch may very well be punching well above his weight.

And if a driver who is clearly frustrated with his team's performance is currently punching above his weight, that 12-point margin above the cutoff is far from safe. A 12th straight playoff appearance is far from a guarantee.