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Does Chase Elliott Have a Path to the Playoffs?

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Joshua Lipowski

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For weeks now, the general consensus has been that if Chase Elliott wants to make the Playoffs, he needs to win. Now, that is a difficult task given how many races Chase Elliott has missed this season, but not impossible. However, this weekend’s top-5 finish at Nashville has opened up a new argument about whether or not pointing his way into the Playoffs is a possibility.

What do these paths look like, and what is the most realistic route for Chase Elliott to make the Playoffs? Here is a look at these possibilities.

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How Elliott Can Point His Way Into the Playoffs

As it stands currently, Chase Elliott is sitting 25th in points, 64 points out of the final Playoff spot currently held by Daniel Suarez. Now, the most intriguing thing is that Elliott was at one point more than 120 points out of the Playoffs on points, and he has already made up over half of that. He was 84 points out heading into Nashville, and he made up 20 points in that race alone.

With nine races remaining, Elliott needs to score at least 7.1 points per race more than those in front of him in the standings. That’s a tall order, but not impossible. Seven points is equivalent to seven positions on the track not including stage points.

Essentially, stage points being equal, Elliott needs to finish eight spots ahead of those above him in the standings for the rest of the regular season. Stage points do make a massive difference, however. For example, William Byron finished two spots behind Chase Elliott, yet Byron scored four more points than Elliott because of stage points.

Elliott needs to be almost perfect when it comes to stage points. One poorly timed flat tire or bad strategy call, and he could be down seven points to those in front of him before the race is even halfway over. However, Elliott has a big ace up his sleeve, and that comes in the form of the NASCAR schedule.

The Upcoming Schedule

Last season, starting with Nashville, Elliott went on a tear finishing in the top-two in five straight races including three wins. Granted, his win at Pocono last year was given to him after the top-2 failed post-race inspection, but Elliott still ran third on the race track. Regardless, Elliott runs well at these race tracks coming up.

Elliott is one of NASCAR’s best road course racers, and there are three road course races remaining before the Playoffs being Chicago, Indianapolis, and Watkins Glen. Richmond is also coming up at the end of July, and Hendrick cars dominated the spring race at the track.

However, the schedule also lends itself to another problem for Elliott: potential new race winners. The more winners, the less spots available for drivers trying to get in on points. In 2022, only one driver made it in on points.

Not only are the three road course races wild cards, but there are two superspeedway style races as well in Daytona and Atlanta. Those two races are complete toss-ups, and racing for stage points is all but impossible.

How Does Elliott Approach These Next Few Races?

So, with all of this in mind, how does Elliott approach these next few races? Pointing his way in is possible, but it is not easy at all. A couple of things going the wrong way could throw that entire strategy off.

Winning is also very hard to do, especially given the incredible parity that NASCAR has this year. However, it is the only seemingly guaranteed way that Elliott can make the Playoffs. Sure, there is the potential for more than 16 winners, but it’s still too early to be worrying too much about that.

The most likely thing for Elliott and Gustafson to do is to go for wins, and just let the chips fall where they may. If in a few weeks Elliott gets closer to the Playoffs and not many new winners come about, then maybe they can look at points racing, but that is a dangerous strategy at this point. It’s a tough situation for Elliott, but there are multiple ways to salvage this season.

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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