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The Most Surprising Drivers Who Missed the Playoffs

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Joshua Lipowski

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When you tune in to the NASCAR Playoff race this weekend, there will be a few drivers who many would assume are in the Playoffs, but they are not. Who are the biggest surprises to miss the Playoffs this season?

Austin Cindric

By the Numbers: 0 Wins; 0 Top-5s; 3 Top-10s; 17 Laps Led; 21.1 Avg. Finish; 22nd in Points

Breakdown: Last season, Austin Cindric won the season-opening Daytona 500, but he also finished a solid 14th in the regular season points standings. As a result, many felt that Cindric would find his way into the Playoffs one way or another, but the sophomore slump hit him hard. He never had a top-5 finish, and he was never a threat to win or even that close to making it on points throughout the season. It was a disappointing year all around for Cindric.

A.J. Allmendinger

By the Numbers: 0 Wins; 2 Top-5s; 5 Top-10s; 17 Laps Led; 19.1 Avg. Finish; 21st in Points

Breakdown: A.J. Allmendinger came back to the Cup Series full-time this season for the first time since 2018. He had won a race on a partial schedule in 2021, and, with six road courses on the schedule, it seemed like Allmendinger could be a dark horse to make the Playoffs for the second time in his career. Unfortunately, his season was just underwhelming, particularly on road courses where he only netted two top-10 finishes in five races.

Daniel Suarez

By the Numbers: 0 Wins; 3 Top-5s; 8 Top-10s; 1 Pole; 36 Laps Led; 18.7 Avg. Finish; 17th in Points

Breakdown: After winning a race last season, and teammate Ross Chastain making the Championship 4, hopes were high for Daniel Suarez in 2023. He had fast cars with some solid qualifying efforts, but both driver mistakes and crew mistakes did Suarez in at the end of the year as he finished as the first car out on points. This all came to a head at Indianapolis, where a pit road mistake took Suarez out of contention for the win, and he finished third.

Alex Bowman

By the Numbers: Missed 3 Races; 0 Wins; 4 Top-5s; 8 Top-10s; 1 Pole; 75 Laps Led; 15.6 Avg. Finish; 19th in Points

Breakdown: Alex Bowman got off to a solid start in 2023 with six top-10s, three top-5s, two poles, and the regular season points lead following the first seven races of the season. Unfortunately, things took a turn from there as a 60-point penalty for an illegal part modification set him back, and a broken back in a sprint car accident set him back even further. He was still in the top 16 on points when he came back, but he did not record another top-10 finish until Indianapolis in August. By then, it was too late, and Bowman missed the Playoffs.

Chase Elliott

By the Numbers: 7 Races Missed; 0 Wins; 7 Top-5s; 10 Top-10s; 41 Laps Led; 13.2 Avg. Finish; 20th in Points

Breakdown: After winning the Regular Season Championship and leading the series in wins last season, Chase Elliott making the Playoffs was a foregone conclusion….or so we thought. Elliott missed six races earlier in the season following a snowboarding accident, and he missed another after he was suspended for intentionally wrecking Denny Hamlin in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. Elliott had some solid runs, but he just never had race-winning speed anywhere he went. As a result, he became the most shocking driver to miss the Playoffs.

Amongst the many surprises to make the Playoffs, there are many people who surprisingly missed them as well. Will any of these drivers play spoiler during the Postseason?

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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