October 4, 2023

Breaking through the field of postseason contenders with 10 regular season races left

The NASCAR Cup Series playoff field is starting to take shape.

Ten drivers have won races in the first 16 races of the 2023 season. That currently leaves six places for winless drivers with 10 races to go before the postseason starts at Darlington in September.

With drivers like Ross Chastain, Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott still winless, the number of winless drivers in the playoffs will definitely be less than six. Will 15 different drivers win a race before the end of the regular season like they did a season ago? That’s unlikely. We think the number will be 13 this year.

As the Cup Series enters its only off-week of the regular season, we thought it would be a good time to check out the contenders to be part of the 16-driver playoff field.

Will make it to the postseason

Byron is tied for the series leader with three wins and is second in the points standings. He has scored the most points of any driver so far this season, but is 13 behind Martin Truex Jr. in the standings. thanks to a 60-point car modification penalty at Richmond.

Busch also has three wins and is tied with Byron with most playoff points to date at 17. Busch’s move to Richard Childress Racing has so far gone as well as it could have gone with nine top-10 points. finishes. Only Truex has a better average finish than Busch.

SONOMA, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 11: Kyle Busch, driver of the #8 McLaren Custom Grills Chevrolet, and Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Toyota / Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 11, 2023 in Sonoma, California.  (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. are two of the favorites to win the NASCAR Cup Series title. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

Truex is bouncing back from his winless 2022 in a big way. He scored his fourth career Sonoma win on Sunday and has a series-best average finish of 11.4. If we had to make a choice now for the 2023 Cup Series title, we would probably go for Truex.

Larson is the BetMGM favorite to win the title, despite an average finish of 16.5 so far this season. Why is that number so bad? Well, Larson has crashed in five races so far this season. Since winning his second race of the season, Larson has placed 33rd, 32nd, second, 20th, 30th, fourth and eighth.

A berth is almost guaranteed

All drivers in this category have one win so far this season and will be in the playoffs unless they fail to win another regular season race and seven or more winless drivers take a win in the last 10 races of the season . Blaney is third in the points and one of four drivers with nine top-10 finishes.

Bell also has nine top-10 finishes and is just 32 points off the points lead despite being seventh in the standings. Bell has cooled off a bit after scoring six top six finishes in the first eight races of the season.

Hamlin has led laps in 12 of the 16 races so far this season. He dropped from fourth to eighth in the standings after Chase Elliott busted him early in the Coca-Cola 600. A few more wins over the course of the regular season will give his title hopes a big boost.

CHARLOTTE, NC - MAY 29: Denny Hamlin (#11 Joe Gibbs Racing Sport Clips Haircuts Toyota) and Christopher Bell (#20 Joe Gibbs Racing Interstate Batteries Toyota) race side-by-side during the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 on May 29, 2023 , at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, NC.  (Photo by Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Denny Hamlin and Christopher Bell are both almost certain of the playoffs. (Photo by Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The defending Cup Series champion won in Atlanta in March and has consecutive third-place finishes heading into the off-week. Those finishes catapulted him from 14th to ninth in the standings.

Reddick has shown plenty of speed on several counts this season, but has also placed 33rd or worse on four occasions. He has been extremely boom or bust. He has only finished five times all season between 11th and 30th.

The winner of the Daytona 500 is 14th in the standings. That’s a pleasant surprise for a driver who had finished no better than 22nd in points in the past four seasons.

Looks good on points

Chastain is the best winless driver in the points classification. He ranks fourth with five top fives and seven top 10s. But he also heads into the off-week with a 10th-place finish, completing a three-race streak of 22nd or worse.

Harvick has been extremely solid so far in his final season of cup competition. He has completed over 98% of the laps and has finished 13th or better in 12 races.

CHARLOTTE, NC - MAY 29: Kevin Harvick (#4 Stewart Haas Racing Rheem Mobil 1 Ford) and Ross Chastain (#1 TrackHouse Racing Advent Health Chevrolet) race through turn four during the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 race on May 29, 2022, at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, NC.  (Photo by Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Kevin Harvick and Ross Chastain are each looking for a
win in 2023. (Photo by Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

A win would be huge

Buescher is 11th in the points standings and could make the playoffs simply by holding that spot in the standings. He’s been really good at road courses lately and that’s significant with three road course races left before the playoffs.

The 2012 Cup champion sits right behind his teammate Buescher in 12th. It is clear that Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing is a lot better than it was in 2022, but it is still a long way from being a weekly Cup Series contender.

Wallace has finished in the top five four times and outside the top 25 five times. He has shown enough speed to win a race for the third season in a row, but he has also failed to finish five of the first 16 races. finish.

Bowman would have been up one spot in the standings and – more importantly – would have had 60 more points had he not been awarded a penalty in Richmond. He should work his way up the standings during the regular season thanks to an average finish of 12th and a great number of points per race. Remember he missed three races earlier this season due to a broken vertebra he suffered in a car wreck in the sprint.

Currently on the outside

Suarez’s third season is better than his first, but worse than his second. There are far too many finishes outside the top 20 (nine) to consider Suarez a serious contender for the playoffs.

Gibbs has finished no better than 13th after four consecutive top-10 finishes in March and April.

Is McDowell coming back from a rough patch? He finished ninth and seventh after five consecutive races outside the top 20. His title chances are pretty astronomical, but it won’t be a huge shock if he sneaks into the playoffs.

Allmendinger is 20th in the standings with just two top-10 finishes. One got to the Daytona 500 and the other got to Sonoma.

The wild card

Elliott has missed seven races in 2023 thanks to a broken leg and suspension for Hamlin’s crash at Charlotte. Elliott scores over 27 points per race and has an average finish that ranks eighth among full-time drivers. But his missed time probably means he has to win a race in the last 10 races of the regular season to qualify for the playoffs.

SONOMA, CA – JUNE 11: Chase Elliott (#9 Hendrick Motorsports NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet) during the NASCAR Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 on June 11, 2023 at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, CA.  (Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Chase Elliott scores over 27 points per race. (Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *