Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.

Playoff Battle: What Just Happened At Watkins Glen?

Article Contents

In This Article

Picture of Cody Williams

Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
All Posts

Let us know what you think

Join the conversation on socials

We saw some big movements today at the Glen when it comes to the Playoff picture with some drivers locking their way in and others floundering. So, we at the Daily Downforce, thought that we’d take a look at and break down the playoff implications heading out of Walkins Glen and heading into Daytona. Let’s check it out.

Clinched A Playoff Birth

Despite not having a new winner at the Glen, two drivers were able to clinch Playoff births today without winning this season. Those two drivers are Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski who both appeared around 140 points to the good heading into this weekend’s race at Walkins Glen. The reason they have locked themselves in is because there was no new winner and Bubba Wallace is mathematically incapable of catching them in points. While Kevin Harvick’s swan song of a season hasn’t been ideal as he’s heading into the last week of August without a win, he has faired better than Jimmie Johnson and Dale Jr. in their respective final seasons as he can proudly claim to be a playoff driver, if only for the final time.

For Brad, making the playoffs this year is a huge deal. Last year, the team struggled to get their legs under them, getting shown up nearly on a weekly basis by the team car, Chris Beuscher in the No. 17.

The fact that Brad was able to point his way into the post-season rather than getting a win speaks volumes to just how much the RFK racing team as a whole has improved between the ’22 and ’23 seasons. Heading into the regular season finale at Daytona where chaos is all but guaranteed, Harvick and Keselowski and rest their heads as they are now guaranteed spots in the 2023 Playoff Grid.

Above The Bubble

With Keselowski and Harvick both pointing their ways into the 2023 NASCAR Post-Season, that leaves only one driver sitting above the playoff bubble heading into what is shaping up to be a very interesting race in Daytona Beach. His name is Bubba Wallace.

The 23XI driver currently sits with a +32 point cushion over Ty Gibbs and a plethora of other hungry drivers. Bubba, who is notorious for disliking road course racing, was able to gain a few stage points throughout the day. He finished 8th in Stage 1, 9th in Stage 2, and finished the race in 12th. It was a respectable points day. But he still has a lot of work to do heading into the wildcard that is Daytona. As long as he stays out of trouble there and there is no new winner, she should be in pretty decent shape to make the Playoffs for the first time in his career.

The race was certainly Bubba’s best showing on a road course thus far in his career. After he crossed the line in P. 12, he did a few doughnuts in celebration.

On The Outside Looking In

This is where things get a little hairy. 32 points is a lot to make up in just one race but if it can be done anywhere, it can be done at Daytona and fairly easily. These drivers are hoping that Bubba Wallace has some sort of issue early on in the race while also hoping nobody else wins if it isn’t them.

Currently 17th in the points, -32 out, is Ty Gibbs. Gibbs was a very controversial driver last year in both the Xfinity Series as well as Cup. This year, he’s been quietly simmering under the radar. He doesn’t necessarily have to win to get into the playoffs (though it would certainly help) but he does need to stay out of trouble which is easier said than done.

Daniel Suarez is in a similar boat. While he doesn’t necessarily have to win to get in, he does have to survive Daytona. That should be priority number 1 for him next weekend. If he can just do that, then he can assess his situation. Regardless, we won’t be in the playoffs if his car is banged up and sitting in the garage.

When we get to AJ Allmendinger who sits in the 19th spot in points, -72 back, we’re starting to get into must-win territory. Keeping a clean nose is still key for him heading into next week (you can’t win if you’re wrecked in the garage) but he still needs to win.

It has been a difficult year for Alex Bowman. While teammates William Byron and Kyle Larson are checking off wins (Byron won today at the Glen), Bowman has been running largely mid-pack at worst and in the mid-to-low teens at best. He missed a lot of races due to injury and never really was able to come back from the deficit he found himself in. He will definitely need a win heading into Daytona.

Hey, those HMS cars are bad fast on superspeedways. If any of these bubble drivers have a prayer in pulling it off, my money is on Bowman. But he will need to stay out of the trouble and all the stars will have to align.

The biggest loser in all of this has to be Chase Elliott. Heading into the Glen, no, he couldn’t point his way in. He was going to have to win. That was obvious to anyone. But he is the best road racer statistically in the Cup Series and while he squandered his qualifying run, he seemed to have a fast car. But a mistake in fuel mileage cost him dearly today as he ran out of gas on the backstretch. He was never able to recover.

Chase has run relatively well on superspeedways in the past. But with the added playoff implications heading into Daytona, the chaos is impossible to predict. He’ll have to win and, if he can stay out of trouble, he can do it. The problem with just staying out of trouble is that even somebody else’s mistake can ruin any hopes of a post-season run.

How are your playoff brackets looking, Daily Downforce readers? I must say, mine is a bit bruised and battered. Of the bubble drivers, who do you all think stands the best chance of getting that final playoff spot? Let us know and keep it right here at DDF and all of our socials for the latest news, stories, predictions, and discussion topics in the world of NASCAR!

Share this:

Picture of Cody Williams

Cody Williams

Cody Williams is the author of BUNNY BOY and THE FIFTH LINE. He lives near Bristol, TN.
All Posts