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These Drivers Are in a Must-Win Situation Heading into Daytona

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Watkins Glen was not kind to many NASCAR Cup Series Playoff contenders. That leaves many in must-win territory at Daytona this weekend, in what is shaping up to be one of the craziest races of the season. Which of these big-name Playoff contenders are in must-win territory heading into Daytona?

Bubba Wallace: Not a Must-Win, but Not Safe Either

Bubba Wallace is in the best situation of everyone on the Playoff bubble heading into Daytona with a 32-point lead over 17th Place Daniel Suarez. However, being in 16th means that any new winner not named Brad Keselowski or Kevin Harvick would knock Wallace out of the Playoffs no matter how well he runs. That is unless Wallace wins, of course, then he would make the Playoffs no matter what.

Sure, Wallace can point his way in, but, he realistically needs to go for the win to give him the best chance of being safe. However, that does give him the predicament of getting involved in an accident near the front of the field, which could cost Wallace a Playoff spot if we get a repeat winner. It’s not an ideal situation, but, Wallace and his team might be wise to take some calculated risks at Daytona this weekend, a track Wallace is very good at.

Ty Gibbs: Not Quite Must-Win, but He MUST Run and Stay Near the Front

If everything breaks right, Ty Gibbs could point his way into the postseason. However, that is risky business with the potential for a new winner wiping out that final points spot. In all honesty, the best course of action for Gibbs is to go for the win, unless Wallace crashes out early.

In that instance, Gibbs may back off a little bit to try to point his way in, but the potential for a new winner makes it hard to fully commit to that strategy before the race. Gibbs needs to run up front and stay up front to have any sort of a chance to make the Playoffs.

Daniel Suarez: Must-Win

Daniel Suarez not only has a 43-point gap to narrow, which is impossible to do with no stage points, but he also has a driver to jump in Ty Gibbs. It does not matter if Wallace runs poorly if Gibbs runs well or if there is a new winner. Suarez needs to go for the win at Daytona.

Maybe if the race unfolds right, he can points race later in the night. However, that’s not something he can walk into the race expecting to do. Even then, he needs to run up front and stay up front throughout the day to even have a chance to point his way in.

Chase Elliott: Must-Win

Watkins Glen was an unmitigated disaster for Chase Elliott and the number 9 team. From a poor qualifying performance to a critical miscalculation in fuel mileage, it was bad. Elliott has literally no other way to make the Playoffs than to win at Daytona.

That is going to be tough as Elliott has never won a points race at Daytona. The last time he won there was one of the Daytona 500 Duel Qualifying races in 2018. He has won at Talladega in the Next-Gen car, which is Daytona’s sister track, so, he can do it. However, it’s easier said than done.

Alex Bowman: Must-Win

With a 96-point deficit heading into Daytona, it is do-or-die for Alex Bowman at Daytona. It has been a disappointing season for Bowman after leading the regular season points earlier in the season. An injury suffered in a sprint car left Bowman out of the car for three races plus the All-Star Race.

Since he came back from injury, Bowman has only one top-10 finish, and his track record at Daytona is not great. He has never won there in a points or non-points event despite multiple front-row starts at the Daytona 500. However, he did finish fifth in the Daytona 500 earlier this year, so maybe he is turning a corner.

Daytona is set to be a crazy race with all of these big names firmly in or close to must-win territory. Which of these drivers will find a way into the Playoffs on Saturday night?

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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