NASCAR: Two race winners at risk of missing the 2024 playoffs

The 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season has already seen 10 different winners. With nine regular season races remaining, could a race winner miss the playoffs?
Daniel Suarez, Trackhouse Racing Team, Austin Cindric, Team Penske, NASCAR
Daniel Suarez, Trackhouse Racing Team, Austin Cindric, Team Penske, NASCAR / Jamie Squire/GettyImages

Team Penske's Ryan Blaney became the 10th different winner of the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season in Sunday night's inaugural race at Iowa Speedway.

The driver of the No. 12 Ford dominated the 350-lap race around the four-turn, 0.875-mile (1.408-kilometer) Newton, Iowa oval, leading a career-high 201 laps en route to taking his first checkered flag as the reigning series champion.

Beyond the Iowa Corn 350 Powered by Ethanol, there are nine races remaining on the regular season schedule. Given the fact that there have already been 10 different race winners this season, there is still a chance that there could end up being more winners than playoff spots, in which case a winner (or winners) would miss the postseason entirely.

Despite the "win and in" perception of the modern playoff format, the 16 playoff spots go to the regular season champion and the 15 drivers who rank next highest in wins.

Two race winners at risk of missing NASCAR playoffs?

This means that the only way a driver can lock into the playoffs at this point in the year is by winning more than once, as there can be no more than 13 multi-race winners throughout the 26-race regular season.

Hendrick Motorsports teammates William Byron and Kyle Larson and Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Christopher Bell have all collected multiple victories so far in 2024 and are therefore locked into the four-round, 10-race postseason.

The other six winners so far this season have only won once, though four of them do appear to be safely locked into the playoffs.

Hendrick Motorsports' Chase Elliott, who won at Texas Motor Speedway, leads the point standings. 23XI Racing's Tyler Reddick, who won at Talladega Superspeedway, sits in sixth place. Blaney sits in seventh, and RFK Racing's Brad Keselowski, who won at Darlington Raceway, sits in ninth.

But Trackhouse Racing Team's Daniel Suarez and Team Penske's Austin Cindric aren't even remotely close to any of those other four winners.

Suarez, who won at Atlanta Motor Speedway, finds himself in 18th place in the point standings, and Cindric, who won at World Wide Technology Raceway, finds himself in 19th.

In the event that more than six new winners emerge over the course of the regular season's final nine races, Suarez and/or Cindric could end up in a bit of a precarious position, potentially fighting for 17th place in the standings instead of a championship.

Since the modern playoff format was introduced in 2014, there has never been a season in which there were more than 16 regular season race winners.

But among winless full-time drivers so far in 2024, seven found victory lane last year, so it's certainly not out of the question.

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Will an 11th different winner emerge in the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season's 18th race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway this coming Sunday, June 23? Last year's winner, Joe Gibbs Racing's Martin Truex Jr., has not yet won in 2024. The USA Today 301 is set to be broadcast live on USA Network beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET. Start a free trial of FuboTV now and don't miss it!