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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No. 2 - Michael McDowell

Like Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Front Row Motorsports' Michael McDowell also qualified for the playoffs for the second time his career, but his drought lasted only one season, as he also made it in 2021.

But also like Stenhouse, McDowell would not have qualified for the 2023 postseason had he not earned a win. The difference is that McDowell, whose 2021 playoff berth came after he won the Daytona 500, dominated the road course race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and he was consistently one of the strongest road course racers of the season. You cannot make the case that his win was a fluke.

However, McDowell was one of the best road course racers in the series in the Next Gen car's first season in 2022, and he didn't manage to win.

Yet McDowell's 2022 season was actually better than his 2023 season; he technically regressed overall in 2023, and without a playoff appearance in 2022, he only finished in 23rd place in the point standings. He recorded 12 top 10 finishes in 2022 and posted an average finish of 16.7. In 2023, those numbers dipped to eight and 19.0, respectively.

Front Row Motorsports have undoubtedly taken a step forward in the Next Gen era, but they are still not truly a top-tier team. With that in mind, can McDowell really be counted on to win again? Considering the fact that he has never qualified for the playoffs on points, that's what it will probably take.