NASCAR playoff standings: How Bubba Wallace, other drivers can qualify for final 2023 playoff spot

Daytona looms over NASCAR drivers like a hawk, its talons extended as it prepares to pounce on its prey. And don’t get it twisted: every Cup Series driver, even the most decorated of them, is prey.

It’s a mausoleum of debris, husks of lifeless chariots strewn along the cobbled pathway that lines its entrance. And yet, we all stand and stare, unwilling to avert our glare.

LIVE: NASCAR returns to Daytona as Bubba Wallace, Chase Elliott look to clinch final playoff spot

Daytona is hell. But it’s also heaven. And with just one playoff spot left for the taking, it seems the perfect setting to wrap up the regular season.

As it stands, Bubba Wallace is in. Chase Elliott is out. But there’s a world of changes that can happen during the race, moments that could prove especially consequential to playoff seeding.

MORE: Date, time, TV channels for every NASCAR Cup Series race in 2023

So, what does the playoff picture look like ahead of Saturday’s main event? The Sporting News fills you in on the current playoff standings, as well as clinch scenarios for some of NASCAR’s more notable names inside and outside the cut line.

NASCAR playoff standings

Below is a current look at the top 16 drivers in the Cup Series playoff standings, based on regular-season points. 

Rank Driver Points Points over cut line
1 Martin Truex Jr.* 861 +0
2 Denny Hamlin* 822 +0
3 William Byron* 785 +0
4 Christopher Bell* 752 +0
5 Kyle Larson* 721 +0
6 Brad Keselowski** 697 +139
7 Chris Buescher* 695 +0
8 Ross Chastain* 695 +0
9 Ryan Blaney* 694 +0
10 Kevin Harvick** 693 +135
11 Kyle Busch* 688 +0
12 Tyler Reddick* 683 +0
13 Joey Logano* 666 +0
14 Bubba Wallace 590 +32
15 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.* 566 +0
17 Michael McDowell* 553 +0

* clinched playoff spot with a win
**clinched playoff spot with points

Here are the drivers still eligible to make it the postseason on points who sit just outside the playoff bubble prior to Saturday’s race.

Rank Driver Points Points below cut line
16 Ty Gibbs 558 -32
18 Daniel Suarez 547 -43

And here are the remaining 14 playoff-eligible drivers who need a win at Daytona to sneak into the postseason.

Rank Driver Points Points below cut line
19 A.J. Allmendinger 518 -72
20 Alex Bowman 494 -96
21 Chase Elliott 489 -101
22 Austin Cindric 476 -116
23 Justin Haley 428 -162
24 Ryan Preece 423 -167
25 Aric Almirola 413 -177
26 Todd Gilliland 405 -185
27 Corey LaJoie 494 -186
28 Erik Jones 375 -215
29 Austin Dillon 369 -221
30 Harrison Burton 343 -347
31 Chase Briscoe 324 -368
32 Ty Dillon 233 -357

How Bubba Wallace, other drivers can qualify for final 2023 playoff spot

Bubba Wallace

Wallace is in the driver’s seat (no pun intended) to secure his first career playoff appearance. The 23XI starlet sits 32 points above the cut line and would clinch the postseason if he were to snag 24 points from Daytona. Assuming that he doesn’t gain any stage points, that would coincide with a 13th-place finish on Saturday.

Ty Gibbs

Gibbs is a near-lock for Rookie of the Year honors, having strung together an impressive maiden season in NASCAR’s premier competition. But he still has work to do to earn a playoff berth; the No. 54 car needs to gain 32 points on Wallace over the course of the race, a significant gap. In all likelihood, Gibbs is in a must-win situation.

Daniel Suarez

Suarez owns the tiebreaker over Wallace, which could come into play if the Trackhouse Racing star were to close the gap. However, with a 43-point gulf separating him and the No. 23 car, it seems Suarez, much like Gibbs, needs a win to punch his ticket for playoffs.

Chase Elliott

It’s been a frustrating campaign for NASCAR’s most popular driver, who has seen his season derailed by injuries and suspensions. The stop-start nature of Elliott’s year has done him no favors and leaves him in a precarious position: either he wins at Daytona or he misses out on his first playoff appearance since becoming a full-time driver in 2016.

Elliott has flirted with greatness at NASCAR’s favorite surface, finishing second at Daytona in 2020 and 2021. But that win still eludes him.

Alex Bowman

Much like his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Elliott, Bowman has endured a rather torrid 2023. Injuries scuppered what looked to be a promising year for Bowman, who missed three races after shattering bones in his back in a wreck during a sprint car race.

Bowman finds himself on the outside looking for the first time since becoming a full-blooded member of HMS in 2018. The good news is that he has tended to impress at the expansive track; Bowman has started on the front row in each of his last six Daytona 500s. The bad news is that he is still seeking his first win there.

NASCAR schedule 2023: Playoff races

(All times Eastern)

Date Race Track Time TV Radio
Sept. 3 Southern 500 Darlington Raceway 6 p.m. USA MRN
Sept. 10 Hollywood Casino 400 Kansas Speedway 3 p.m. USA MRN
Sept. 16 Bass Pro Shops Night Race Bristol Motor Speedway 7:30 p.m. USA PRN
Sept. 24 AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 400 Texas Motor Speedway 3:30 p.m. USA PRN
Oct. 1 YellaWood 500 Talladega Superspeedway 2 p.m. NBC MRN
Oct. 8 Bank of America Roval 400 Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval 2 p.m. NBC PRN
Oct. 15 South Point 400 Las Vegas Motor Speedway 2:30 p.m. NBC PRN
Oct. 22 NASCAR Cup Series Race at Homestead-Miami Homestead-Miami Speedway 2:30 p.m. NBC MRN
Oct. 30 Xfinity 500 Martinsville Speedway 2 p.m. NBC MRN
Nov. 6 NASCAR Cup Series Championship Phoenix Raceway 3 p.m. NBC MRN

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