Back to News

May 24, 2024

The Field of 16: Projecting the Cup Series Playoffs entering Charlotte


Cup cars race at Charlotte.
Jared C. Tilton
Getty Images

Editor’s Note: Racing Insights’ playoff projections use a combination of current standings and historical performance at upcoming tracks to determine the probability of each driver winning or making the playoffs on points.

With the Cup Series Playoffs on the mind throughout the season, what if there was a way to project how the 16-driver field could look before each race weekend?

It now exists via Racing Insights. From now until the start of the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, “The Field of 16” will give fans a weekly look at where their favorite drivers could potentially land in the postseason field — and the likelihood of having a shot at the Bill France Cup.

Here’s this week’s update on the projections heading into the Coca-Cola 600.

NOTABLE PROBABILITY SHIFTS POST-DARLINGTON

DriverProbability before SonomaProbability entering IowaProbability difference
Chris Buescher40.72%69.08%+28.36
Ryan Blaney72.53%84.67%+12.14
Ty Gibbs97.38%92.73%-4.65
Joey Logano53.90%47.82%-6.08
Bubba Wallace52.39%35.45%-16.94
Charlotte playoff predictor
PROBABILITY CALCULATED BY RACING INSIGHTS AHEAD OF COCA-COLA 600, MAY 26, 2024

DRIVERS SOLIDLY IN PLAYOFF PICTURE

Eight drivers are provisionally locked into the 2024 Cup Series Playoffs, with three of those guaranteed as Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson and William Byron have all won multiple times this season. Larson, who is attempting to complete the Indy/Charlotte Double this weekend, is the current points leader by 30 points above Martin Truex Jr.

Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell, Chase Elliott, Daniel Suárez and most recently, Brad Keselowski have all snagged a victory. Keselowski’s rousing Darlington win snapped a 110-race drought and applies even more pressure to those who have yet to visit Victory Lane in 2024.

Of those without a win yet, Ty Gibbs and Truex are in the best shape heading into Sunday’s 600-miler (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) with probabilities over 90%. Truex is second in points while a big points day for Gibbs at Darlington sees him seventh currently in the Cup standings.

LAST 4 IN

While Keselowski went winless last year and made the playoffs, Alex Bowman was not in the picture. The driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet is currently playing spoiler for a handful of drivers as he continues to quietly have a great season with four consecutive top-10 results.

For two consecutive races, Chris Buescher has been on the verge of the winner’s circle and has received the short end of the stick both times following contact with his fellow competitors. After confronting Reddick post-race at Darlington, the driver of the No. 17 RFK Racing Ford will be on a mission to finally break through in 2024 in the Coke 600.

Bubba Wallace re-enters the right side of the predicted elimination line after a top 10 at Darlington. While he sits 16th in Cup points, Sunday could be the big payout for Wallace given 23XI Racing’s well-known prowess on intermediate tracks.

After a fiery evening at North Wilkesboro, it may give Kyle Busch a shot in the arm to go for his second Coke 600 win. Busch has finished fourth or better in six of the last eight Charlotte oval events.

FIRST 4 OUT

Who would’ve thought a two-time champion would be on the outside looking in of the playoffs? That’s Joey Logano’s predicament now in what has so far been a season to forget for the No. 22 team. Logano hasn’t scored a top-10 finish since Martinsville.

Chase Briscoe, Michael McDowell and Josh Berry round out those near the projected playoff bubble and all saw their probabilities rise after respective top-10 results at Darlington.

WHO CAN SHAKE UP PLAYOFF PICTURE AT CHARLOTTE?

This weekend might be the toughest to pick a driver to really boost their playoff hopes. 600 miles is grueling and the cream usually rises in this event. However, the last two seasons have seen unpredictable Coke 600s and the likes of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Austin Dillon have themselves close to the front, not to mention, Dillon, is a one-time winner of NASCAR’s longest event back in 2017.

MORE: Racing Insights predicts Charlotte | 2024 Cup Series schedule

Briscoe also comes to mind after he was battling with Larson for the Coke 600 checkered flag in 2022 until a full send into Turn 1 with two laps to go caused the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford to spin. Given that SHR is coming off two top-five results at Darlington, don’t be surprised if a Briscoe, Berry or Noah Gragson could throw the playoff picture for a loop on Sunday.

Before each race weekend, check back into The Field of 16 to see the latest projections of the 2024 Cup Series playoff field.

MUST WATCH