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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4. Chris Buescher

RFK Racing's Chris Buescher may not fit the description of "usual championship contender" quite yet, having only really emerged as a title threat during the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, but it would be disrespectful not to include him here, given everything he has done over the course of the last 12 months.

Buescher entered last year with two career victories. He doubled that total in a matter of eight days, and he added another win later in the year. In fact, he won three consecutive oval races late in last year's regular season, and a strong playoff run resulted in a maiden round of 8 appearance and a career-best seventh place finish in the point standings.

While Ford have undoubtedly struggled to start the 2024 season, RFK Racing have still been strong, and the driver of the No. 17 Ford has been no exception.

Buescher was in position to win both the races at Kansas Speedway and Darlington Raceway, but he was unable to win either.

He lost out to Hendrick Motorsports' Kyle Larson at Kansas in the closest finish in Cup Series history, and he was knocked out of contention at Darlington due to late contact with 23XI Racing's Tyler Reddick. It was RFK Racing teammate Brad Keselowski who capitalized and secured the win, his first since joining the team and becoming co-owner in 2022.

With things having not recently gone his way, Buescher finds himself as the 16th and final driver above the playoff cut line. Can he convert his speed into a race victory and ultimately a second straight playoff berth at some point in the near future?