NASCAR: 5 playoff drivers who might not be back in 2024

No two NASCAR Cup Series playoff fields have ever been alike, and there is little reason to believe that will change in 2024. Who will drop out?

Michael McDowell, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., NASCAR
Michael McDowell, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., NASCAR / Jay Biggerstaff/GettyImages
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The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs consisted of five drivers who were not a part of the 16-driver 2022 postseason, and one of those drivers had never previously been in the playoffs. Three of the other four had only ever been in the playoffs on one occasion.

More than likely, the numbers for 2024 will look similar, with a number of drivers qualifying for the playoffs who did not qualify in 2023 -- or perhaps ever before. But at whose expense?

While we know for a fact that the retired Kevin Harvick won't be back, here are five playoff drivers from 2023 who haven't retired but will struggle to make it back in 2024.

No. 1 - Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

JTG Daugherty Racing's Ricky Stenhouse Jr. qualified for the playoffs for the second time in his career -- and the first time since 2017 -- with what was arguably his best season.

But even amid a career-best season -- or at the very least, his best season since 2017 -- Stenhouse would not have qualified for the playoffs if he had not won the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

Stenhouse also would not have qualified for the playoffs in 2017 had he not won two races, so in 11 seasons, he has never advanced to the playoffs on points. In other words, he likely needs to win again in 2023 in order to get back to the postseason. Can that really be counted on?