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NASCAR Cup Sequence playoff image: One spot left with one race remaining

One race remains to determine who gets the final NASCAR Cup Series playoff spot.One very unpredictable race.Cup drivers head to where they started 2023 as the regular season ends Saturday night with 400 miles scheduled for Daytona International Speedway. Many know their destiny while others face win-and-in situations at a track where the cars run

NASCAR Cup Sequence playoff image: One spot left with one race remaining

One race stays to find out who will get the ultimate NASCAR Cup Series playoff spot.

One very unpredictable race.

Cup drivers head to the place they began 2023 because the common season ends Saturday evening with 400 miles scheduled for Daytona International Speedway. Many know their future whereas others face win-and-in conditions at a observe the place the automobiles run in tight packs, which may trigger massive wrecks, and the place the aerodynamic draft evens the sphere the place the fitting push from the automotive behind on the proper time will outcome within the win.

The 2020 Cup champion, Chase Elliott, who faces a must-win scenario to make the playoffs, indicated simply how precarious a process he and others face.

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“To indicate up there and be in a must-win scenario is like going to Vegas and having to hit the closest slot machine for the jackpot,” Elliott mentioned. “That is simply foolish.”

Whereas some years there may very well be loads of math occurring so far as who may very well be in and who may very well be out, this 12 months it’s comparatively easy. The Cup playoff area consists of the 16 drivers primarily based on variety of wins with ties damaged by factors. The regular-season champion, within the uncommon occasion of being winless, would get one of many spots.

“We run 26 races within the common season, they usually all are the identical,” mentioned Cup driver and crew proprietor Denny Hamlin, whose driver, Bubba Wallace, is amongst these on the bubble. “So Race 3 meant simply as a lot as this one. It simply does. We’re speaking about 5 factors right here, 10 factors there.

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“There’s alternatives. That is why it is so laborious within the Cup Sequence as a result of you need to be good your entire common season and in the event you’re not, you are going to end up on the bubble most years.”

There are 13 drivers within the playoffs due to wins: William Byron, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Chris Buescher, Tyler Reddick, Denny Hamlin, Christopher Bell, Ross Chastain, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Michael McDowell

Two drivers are locked in on factors: Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick.

There are three drivers, if the winner would not come from one of many 15 locked-in drivers or a non-full-time driver, who might get in on factors.

Wallace has a 32-point cushion on Ty Gibbs and a 43-point cushion on Daniel Suarez.

If there isn’t any new winner at Daytona, Wallace would clinch the playoff spot with 24 factors (thirteenth if no stage factors) it doesn’t matter what anyone else does at Daytona. Gibbs wants to realize 32 factors (33 if his end is not third or higher) on Wallace; Suarez wants to realize 43 on Wallace (Suarez has tiebreaker, which is greatest end).

There are 14 drivers whose solely likelihood to advance is with a win: Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman, AJ Allmendinger, Austin Cindric, Justin Haley, Aric Almirola, Ryan Preece, Corey LaJoie, Todd Gilliland, Erik Jones, Austin Dillon Harrison Burton, Chase Briscoe and Ty Dillon.

Here is a take a look at these making an attempt to make it into the postseason.

Bubba Wallace: Wallace has loved a few of his greatest finishes at Daytona and earned his first profession victory at Daytona’s sister observe of Talladega. If he would not wreck, he’ll most definitely get in on factors so long as there isn’t any new winner.

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“You simply need to exit and run your individual race,” Wallace mentioned. “Who is aware of what can occur Lap 1 for us subsequent weekend? It’s important to go together with a constructive mindset and consider.”

Bubba Wallace discusses his outlook for Saturday’s race at Daytona

Ty Gibbs: The rookie was thirteenth a 12 months in the past at Daytona subbing for Kurt Busch and twenty fifth within the Daytona 500. He seemingly will want his first profession Cup victory to make it into the playoffs.

“I do not actually know what mindset to have going there,” Gibbs mentioned. “Simply keep clear and attempt to make it to the top and have a great end.”

Daniel Suarez: The up-and-down common season for Suarez will finish at a spot the place he has inconsistent finishes. His greatest Daytona end was seventh this 12 months within the Daytona 500.

“At Daytona, something can occur,” Suarez mentioned. “Any person else could make a mistake in entrance of me and that is it.”

Chase Elliott: Elliott has gained in his profession at Talladega however by no means Daytona, the place he has a pair of second-place finishes. This 12 months, he has missed seven races — six due to damage, one due to a suspension.

“No person’s fault however mine that we’re within the spot that we’re in,” Elliott mentioned.

Chase Elliott says going to Daytona needing to win is like going to Vegas and needing to hit the jackpot

Alex Bowman: Bowman has one top-5 end at Daytona, and that was his fifth in February. However at the least he is aware of that if he is in place, he ought to have some quick Hendrick teammates to assist push him (in fact, they could have to choose of pushing him or Elliott). Bowman missed three factors races earlier this 12 months with a damaged again.

AJ Allmendinger: Allmendinger has completed within the top-10 in his previous 5 Cup begins at Daytona. The veteran hates the superspeedway model of racing and sure noticed his greatest probabilities for a win slip away at Indianapolis and Watkins Glen the previous couple of weeks.

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Austin Cindric: Cindric pulled off the upset in profitable the 2022 Daytona 500 as a rookie. He’d love to tug off one other one.

Justin Haley: Haley’s solely Cup win was his victory in a rain-shortened Cup race at Daytona in 2019. He completed sixth within the 2021 regular-season finale. If he can discover his method into place on the finish, he might have an opportunity. 

Aric Almirola: Almirola gained the 2014 summer season race at Daytona and has discovered himself main or close to the entrance of a number of races there solely to get caught up in a crash. He gained one of many Daytona 500 qualifying races in February. In what presumably is his closing season, it might be a profession second if he can earn the walk-off win. 

“Now we have a terrific alternative once we go there,” Almirola mentioned.

Will Bubba Wallace maintain on to the final playoff spot at Daytona?

Ryan Preece: Preece was fourth on this race two years in the past. He has crashed in 4 of his seven Cup begins on the observe.

Corey LaJoie: LaJoie has run effectively on the superspeedways, though Daytona hasn’t been essentially the most type to him with only one top-10 end in his previous six begins.

Todd Gilliland: Gilliland has crashed in every of his three Cup begins at Daytona, however he would seemingly get some assist from teammate McDowell if he wants it on the finish.

Erik Jones: Jones gained the 2018 summer season race at Daytona and was third within the 2019 Daytona 500. Since then, he hasn’t completed within the high 10 at Daytona in eight begins. However that does not imply he will not be within the combine.

Austin Dillon: Dillon gained this race final 12 months due to a push from teammate Tyler Reddick. The 2018 Daytona 500 winner would possibly want a push from his present teammate, Kyle Busch, to get it accomplished this 12 months.

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Harrison Burton: Burton hasn’t completed higher than nineteenth in his three Daytona begins. And but he nonetheless has hope.

“It is all the time chaos,” he mentioned. “So making an attempt to navigate that and perceive that there are going to be plenty of different guys in the identical boat, I see it as a legit, possible likelihood. If I did not, I most likely would not even present up. I really feel prefer it’s a part of what makes race automotive drivers tick.”

Chase Briscoe: Briscoe was third within the 2022 Daytona 500, however that’s the solely Daytona race he has completed with out getting caught up in a wreck in his previous 4 begins.

Ty Dillon: Dillon has one top-5 end in his 13 Cup begins at Daytona. 

Pondering Out Loud

Sam Mayer gained the Xfinity Series race by making an aggressive transfer that resulted in a wheel hop and taking out Ty Gibbs on the green-white-checkered end.

It was a mistake within the sense that he wheel-hopped, however it did not appear Mayer was seemingly going to keep away from that as laborious as he went into the nook.

Xfinity Sequence at Watkins Glen highlights

It was a transfer {that a} driver ought to make to win a race to get into the playoffs. However is it a transfer a driver ought to make when the motive force already has a win, as Mayer had?

It could appear that this near the playoffs, it is best to not make different drivers indignant, and Mayer made Joe Gibbs Racing and Richard Childress Racing drivers upset.

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The JR Motorsports driver bought the dear 5 playoff factors and one other trophy. However solely time will inform if it was value it or if it comes again to chew him when he would possibly want a favor throughout the playoffs with regards to give-and-take battling for place on the observe.

In The Information

Austin Hill has signed a multi-year contract extension with Richard Childress Racing to proceed driving within the Xfinity Sequence for the group.

–Legacy Motor Membership has named Josh Berry as its driver for the No. 42 Cup automotive at Daytona.

Shane van Gisbergen was given his official launch from his Supercars crew to permit him to discover alternatives in NASCAR in 2024.

Social Highlight

Stat of the Day

At 1 hour, 58 minutes, 44 seconds, the Cup race at Watkins Glen was the quickest Cup race run to its scheduled distance since a 100-mile race at Hickory that took 1 hour, 22 minutes and 25 seconds on Aug. 28, 1971.

They Mentioned It

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“I do not assume I had one lap the place I mentioned I used to be going to suck, so it was good.” —Bubba Wallace on his Twelfth-place end at Watkins Glen

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports activities. He has spent many years masking motorsports, together with the previous 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting Information, NASCAR Scene journal and The (Daytona Seashore) Information-Journal. Observe him on Twitter @bobpockrass, and join the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.

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