What’s Happening?

The 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season starts on Sunday with the non-points Clash at the LA Coliseum. While a non-point event, this race feels like as good of a time as any to make some predictions. The marker of success for a NASCAR Cup Series season is making the Playoffs, so, that feels like the perfect place to start. Here are our 2024 NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Predictions.

  • For this list, we will focus on who will qualify for the Playoffs. We may allude to which drivers may advance, but, we won’t predict which drivers will be eliminated from which round.
  • Each driver will be separated into tiers. The tiers will be as follows: Locks, Safe Picks, on the Bubble, and Surprises.
  • Fans are starting to come up with their predictions for the 2024 season. It’s a common thing to do as the Cup Series season approaches.

Locks

Drivers in this section are virtual guarantees to make the Playoffs. They all should win a race, and, even if they do not, they should find a way in on points. If these drivers miss the Playoffs, it will be because of some sort of catastrophic event that no man foresaw.

#5 – Kyle Larson

Kyle Larson just may be the most talented race car driver in the world, and he is driving for the best tea in the sport, Hendrick Motorsports, with arguably the best crew chief in the sport, Cliff Daniels. He is a pick by many to win the Cup Series Championship, and anything less than that is a disappointment for him

#11 – Denny Hamlin

Ever since Denny Hamlin joined the Cup Series in 2006, he has missed the Playoffs only once, in 2013, and that was because he was injured. He is the number 1 driver at JGR with a top-notch crew chief in Chris Gabehart. If NASCAR Full Speed proved anything, it’s that 2024 is Championship or bust for Hamlin.

#12 – Ryan Blaney

Ryan Blaney is the defending NASCAR Cup Series Champion, and he has made the Playoffs every year since 2017. He races for Team Penske, who may be the number 1 Ford team with how much SHR struggled in 2023.

#20 – Christopher Bell

Christopher Bell may not be the number 1 driver at JGR, but, when the chips are down, he performs. He made the Championship 4 in 2022 and 2023, making him the highest-finishing Toyota driver in the final standings. Even if he doesn’t excite everyone, he continues to perform.

#22 – Joey Logano

Joey Logano is ready to forget 2023 as he was eliminated from the Playoffs in Round 1. Still, he is with Team Penske, who won the Championship with Ryan Blaney in 2023. Logano is still a 2-Time Champion, so, he can and will continue to perform.

#24 – William Byron

William Byron was statistically the best driver in 2023. He won a career-high 6 races and made his first Championship 4. He and the team around him return largely the same for 2024, and it seems he will continue to improve.

Safe Picks

Drivers in this category should make the Playoffs with relative ease, but, there is a slight chance they could slip out. Each of the last two seasons has seen some surprising candidates dropping out of the Playoffs for one reason or another. These drivers could become those drivers, but, they will most likely make the Playoffs

#1 – Ross Chastain

Ross Chastain heads into 2024 with perhaps more momentum than any Cup Series driver after his season finale win at Phoenix. He won 2 races in 2023, and he made the Championship 4 in 2022. However, the concern lies with his lows in 2023. After leading the points early in the season, Chastain only had 8 top-10 finishes in the final 24 races after 6 in the first 12 races.

#6 – Brad Keselowski

Brad Keselowski and RFK had a major resurgence in 2023, with both Keselowski and his teammate Chris Buescher making the Playoffs. Keselowski failed to win a race, but, he proved that he is still a talented race car driver. The concern with Keselowski is whether or not RFK can follow up on their incredible 2023. Will they improve, or stagnate, or regress?

#8 – Kyle Busch

Kyle Busch won 3 races in 2023, which was the first time he won at least 3 races in a season since his last Championship in 2019. The change of scenery from JGR to RCR seemed to be perfect for him. The issue with Busch is that his 2023 season was a tale of two halves. He only had 5 top-10s in the last 17 races of the season with no wins. If that continues, he could be on the bubble.

#9 – Chase Elliott

Chase Elliott returns in 2024 hopefully completely healthy. A combination of bad luck and bad decision-making kept him from the Cup Series Playoffs in 2023. He returns to Hendrick Motorsports with Alan Gustafson, who won a Championship together with Elliott in 2020. The issue with Elliott will be his health and whether he can find a way back to victory lane. When he was racing, he was not winning in 2023.

#17 – Chris Buescher

Chris Buescher’s story and concerns are similar to his boss, Brad Keselowski. Buescher is coming off of his best career season, and he and RFK are looking to take that next step to Championship contenders in 2024. The question is, will RFK follow up their success in 2023?

#19 – Martin Truex Jr.

Martin Truex Jr. went from the Regular Season Champion to bonafide garbage in the 2023 Playoffs. He will be dodging retirement questions throughout 2024, but, he still can win races in top equipment at JGR. However, many will point to 2022, where Truex Jr. failed to win a race, which cost him a Playoff spot. Will history repeat itself?

#45 – Tyler Reddick

Tyler Reddick enters into his 2nd season at 23XI Racing in the #45 car. He won 2 races in 2023, and that came after 3 wins with RCR in 2022. He is an established winner in the Cup Series now, but, he could not get over the hump in the Round of 8. 23XI Racing, just like RFK Racing, will have to follow up a great 2023, but, can they do it?

On the Bubble

These are drivers that will have to fight hard to get into the Playoffs. While they technically are in the Playoffs in this scenario, they will be in the bubble fight throughout the season, and they might need a clutch win late in the regular season to secure that berth. Yes, these drivers are in, but, not by much.

#23 – Bubba Wallace

Bubba Wallace fought and clawed to get into the Playoffs, and he even made it past the Round of 12. Still, he failed to win a race, and there have not been many points-paying Playoff positions in the Next-Gen era. Once again, he may be on the bubble, and, he has to prove that he can be a consistent Playoff contender. That’s a big step for him to take, and the competition will be tough.

#48 – Alex Bowman

Alex Bowman’s broken back derailed a promising season in 2023. He does drive for Hendrick Motorsports, but, he has to compete with Elliott, Larson, and Byron for top equipment at the race team. Bowman has also not completed a full season healthy since 2021. He needs to stay healthy, and, if he is healthy, he needs to get out of the shadow of his teammates.

Surprise

For those who have counted so far, we have 15 drivers. That leaves one spot left for a surprise driver. This is for a driver that not everyone will agree that they should be included in this list.

#54 – Ty Gibbs

Our surprise Playoff driver for 2024 is Ty Gibbs. He narrowly missed the Playoffs in 2023, and he was competing near the front at races like the Charlotte Roval, Martinsville, and Daytona. Given that he is driving for JGR, it’s a realistic goal for him to win a race in 2024. If he wins a race, then he is in the Playoffs.

Notable Absences

Now that the 16-car field has been set, this means that many drivers have been left out, but, why? Here, we explain why certain prominent race teams were left out of the Playoff field in this scenario.

Legacy Motor Club

Legacy Motor Club is dealing with a major transition for 2024. They partner with a new manufacturer and a new driver is coming in. These changes should ultimately be positive for the team, but, it is a major transition time for them. It may take some time to reach their full potential, and that could cause them to play catch-up throughout the season.

Stewart-Haas Racing

Stewart-Haas Racing is in a rebuilding year in 2024. Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola are gone, and in comes Josh Berry and Noah Gragson. They have to deal with a new car, the Ford Mustang Dark Horse. Ryan Preece and Chase Briscoe both missed the Playoffs by a country mile in 2023. This is not the year of SHR’s resurgence, but, it is year one of a long road upwards.

Spire Motorsports

Spire Motorsports made some major upgrades this offseason, but, making the Playoffs is asking for a major leap upward. Their 2 cars finished 26th and 33rd in Owner’s points in 2023, so, making the jump into the top-16 is a big one. It will be especially tough with 2 rookies driving their cars. Spire should improve, but, making the Playoffs is a bit lofty.

Do you agree or disagree with our list? Who are some of your surprise Playoff makes or Playoff snubs?

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