Bubble Watch: Where drivers closest to the elimination line stand before Richmond
By Staff Report
4 Minute Read
The push to the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs is in full swing. Just five races remain until the 16-driver grid is set to determine who will compete for the Bill France Trophy.
Entering Richmond Raceway on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, USA, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NBC Sports App), 11 drivers have locked themselves into the postseason with a victory, leaving five spots still up for grabs. A handful of big names still have yet to solidify their playoff position and before cars hit the Virginia short track this weekend, see who currently sits just above the elimination line, just below and on the outside looking in with stats provided by Racing Insights.
✅ DRIVERS ABOVE ELIMINATION LINE
Points above: 27
Trending: OK Recently
Richmond outlook – Cold: Wallace rallied from a poor final pit stop at Pocono to score a respectable amount of points with an 11th-place finish. The 27-point gap above the elimination line was much needed for the driver of the No. 23 Toyota as he doesn’t have a finish better than 12th in his career at the Virginia short track and ran 22nd in April.
Points above: 17
Trending: Cooling Off
Richmond outlook – April Snapped Cold Streak: McDowell scored his first top 10 in 24 starts at Richmond back in April. He finished 19th at Pocono but did rack up key points with a sixth-place result in Stage 1.
☣️ ON THE BUBBLE
Points below: 17
Trending: Mostly Cold Recently
Richmond outlook – Cold: Allmendinger will start from the rear in Sunday’s Cup race at the short track as he will miss practice and qualifying due to competing in the Xfinity event at Road America on Saturday. Derek Kraus will pilot the No. 16 Chevrolet for Saturday’s sessions at Richmond. Allmendinger finished 27th at Richmond in April.
Points below: 23
Richmond outlook – Cold: Suárez has been on a downswing recently with just two top 10s in the last 11 races and Richmond doesn’t serve the Trackhouse Racing driver well either as he owns six straight results of 16th or worse.
Points below: 28
Trending: Hit or Miss
Richmond outlook – Hit or Miss: The rookie continues to impress after scoring his first top-five finish last Sunday at Pocono. A ninth-place run at Richmond in April should give Gibbs an extra boost of confidence this weekend as he continues his ascent toward the elimination line.
Points below: 46
Richmond outlook – Hit or Miss: What was looking to be a massive points day at Pocono turned into an all-for-naught situation for Bowman as he got loose and spun from the top five with 10 laps to go. Sitting 20th in points, Bowman may be in a must-win situation. Richmond could finally be what he’s been looking for all season as he won at the Virginia short track in April 2021 and owns four top-10 results in the last six races.
🚩 MUST-WIN SITUATION
Points below: 56
Trending: OK Recently
Richmond outlook – Hit or Miss Recently: When Elliott returned from injury, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that he’d still make the playoffs. With five races out, that possibility looks grimmer by the weekend as the 2020 Cup champion still sits well below the elimination line. Along with his Hendrick Motorsports teammate noted above, Richmond could be the jackpot for the No. 9 team. Despite Elliott not racing at the track in April, his replacement driver Josh Berry brought home the No. 9 Chevrolet second.
Points below: 60
Richmond outlook – Cold: Austin Cindric’s time to shine will likely come in the two road-course races at Indianapolis and Watkins Glen. He doesn’t trend well ahead of Richmond after finishing 28th at the track in April.
Points below: 62
Trending: Cooling Off
Richmond outlook – Cold: A late wreck at Pocono plummeted Haley’s chances of pointing his way into the postseason. It will be difficult to find a path for the driver of the No. 31 Chevy to score a quality finish on Sunday with no finishes better than 21st in five starts at Richmond.
Points below: 97
Richmond outlook – Cold: While recent results for Gilliland won’t be enough to point his way into the postseason, no one can deny how impressive his sophomore campaign has been in the Cup Series. He continues to run inside the top 20 and finished 15th at Richmond in April.
Points below: 103
Richmond outlook – Mostly Cold Recently: A 12th-place finish at Pocono matched his best finish in the last 12 races (Chicago). But just one top 10 through 21 races this season has Almirola tracking toward his worst year at the Cup level in his entire career. Almirola finished 13th at Richmond in April.