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NASCAR’s Craziest Playoff Clinching Comebacks

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Drivers like Chase Elliott are looking to make some improbable Playoff comebacks in these final few races before the Playoffs start. These races have held some of NASCAR’s most clutch performances over the last 20 seasons. Which drivers have has the craziest Playoff clinching comebacks in NASCAR history?

5. 2004: Jeremy Mayfield

The 2004 season was the first year in which NASCAR introduced the “Chase,” now known as the “Playoffs.” The format in 2004 was that anyone in the top-10 in points would have their points reset to battle for the championship over the final 10 races. Heading into the 2004 Chevy Rock and Roll 400 at Richmond, nine drivers were battling for the final four Playoff spots.

Jeremy Mayfield came into the race in 14th in the points, 30 points outside of the top-10. Mayfield would go on to lead 151 laps to win the race, vaulting him into ninth place in the points standings. He joined Mark Martin, Ryan Newman, and Kurt Busch as the final four drivers into the Playoffs.

4. 2015: Kyle Busch

In 2015, Kyle Busch missed the first 11 races of the season after suffering a broken leg in the season-opening Xfinity Series race at Daytona. He was tasked with two things, win at least one race, and find his way into the top-30 in points to be eligible for the Playoffs. After his first four races, Busch was down in 39th in points with only 11 races left until the Playoffs.

From there, he went on a tear, winning at Sonoma, Kentucky, New Hampshire, and Indianapolis to vault himself into the top-30 in points with four wins. The rest as they say is history, as Busch won his first NASCAR Cup Series Championship, all as a result of some incredible driving during the summer of 2015.

3. 2012: Jeff Gordon

The 2012 season got off to an abysmal start for Jeff Gordon. He had only three top-10 finishes in the first 14 races of the season despite leading at least one lap in nine of those races. From blown engines, to crashes, to penalties, to Clint Bowyer, Gordon could not find any luck as he was mired in 22nd in points.

Things began to change at Pocono that August when Gordon saw the top-4 cars crash out in front of him on a restart right before a thunderstorm. Gordon won that race, and he ran so well that he was only 12 points behind Kyle Busch for the final “Wild Card” spot. Gordon would go on to finish in second to beat Busch for the Playoff spot by only three points.

2. 2006: Kasey Kahne

Kasey Kahne got off to a great start in 2006 by winning four of the first 15 races. He faltered later in the season, and he fell 90 points out of the Playoffs heading into the penultimate race of the regular season at California Speedway. He had failed to make the Playoffs in 2004 after faltering towards the end of the season, and some wondered if it would happen again.

Kahne would respond by leading 130 of the 250 laps at California, and he would pass Reed Sorenson with two laps to go after he ran out of fuel. This left Kahne only 40 points out heading into Richmond. At Richmond, he would run well once again by finishing third and making the playoffs by 16 points over defending Cup Series Champion Tony Stewart.

1. 2011: Brad Keselowski

In 2011, Brad Keselowski was entering his second season with Roger Penske, and it was Keselowski’s first while piloting the “Blue Deuce.” The season was a difficult one at first as he had only three top-10s in the first 19 races, but he did have a win on fuel mileage at Kansas Speedway. His season got even more difficult after he broke his ankle while testing at Road Atlanta in August.

Despite the broken ankle, Keselowski would record four consecutive top-3 finishes including wins at Pocono and the Bristol Night Race. He would make the Playoffs as the first “Wild Card”, and he would go on to win the NASCAR Cup Series Championship the next year. If 2011 never happens the way that it does, is Brad Keselowski the Cup Series Champion we know him as today?

There are plenty of candidates for an incredible Playoff clinching comeback this season, Could Alex Bowman or Chase Elliott, or maybe someone else add to this list?

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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