NASCAR Cup Series
Ryan Blaney Advances to Round of 8 With Talladega Win; Harvick Disqualified
Oct 1, 2023
Finishing seventh at Talladega, Chase Elliott and Hendrick Motorsports head to Charlotte's ROVAL with a 20-point buffer on the cutline in the Owner's Playoffs.
It isn’t uncommon to see owner points get tossed to the backburner in the closing weeks of the NASCAR Cup Series campaign, as most become hyper-focused on the driver’s championship, which is decided during the final 10-race stretch of the season.
Most years, that’s pretty much a non-issue, as the drivers successful in punching their tickets into the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs are typically bringing their full-time entry with them into the Owner’s Playoffs.
That’s not the case this year, though.
After a broken tibia sidelined him for six weeks, and a suspension for intentionally wrecking Denny Hamlin in the Coca-Cola 600 a seventh, Chase Elliott ended the regular season without a victory, and 94 points short of sneaking into the post-season based on his points position.
But, while Elliott wasn’t present in the NASCAR Cup Series, interim drivers Josh Berry, Jordan Taylor, and Corey LaJoie were able to collect enough points to place the Hendrick Motorsports No. 9 in the Owner’s Playoffs, bumping out the No. 23 for 23XI Racing.
While not being able to compete for his second NASCAR Cup Series championship likely garnered some disappointment for Elliott, the end goal is ultimately the same: bring home a championship for Hendrick Motorsports.
Plus, an overarching positive to the situation for Hendrick Motorsports, is that when winnings are distributed at the end of the season, they’re distributed based on owner point standings, rather than the commonly observed driver point standings.
The situation draws several similarities to last year, when Kurt Busch suffered a concussion in a qualifying crash at Pocono which left him sidelined indefinitely, ultimately leaving Busch to forfeit his post-season berth earned from a victory at Kansas Speedway, while the No. 45 marched forward in the Owner’s Playoffs with Bubba Wallace behind the wheel.
Not being eligible to win the driver’s championship has seemingly diverted focus away from NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver in recent weeks, making his run of strong finishes to this point in the Playoffs go rather unnoticed, with no finish worse than 11th.
Those finishes have left Elliott and the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports team in a somewhat comfortable position heading to the elimination race at Charlotte’s ROVAL, sitting 20 points above the cutline to advance to the Owner’s Playoffs ‘Round of 8’.
But, Sunday’s YellaWood 500 saw the 27-year-old driver be in contention to score a second straight victory in the Fall event at Talladega, leading the pack as close to the finish as five laps remaining, before getting shuffled back in the bottom line with his Hendrick Motorsports teammates.
All things considered, though, things could have ended up much more dire for Elliott, after being collected in the final accident of the afternoon, which was triggered by fourth-place running Riley Herbst getting turned in front of the pack in the tri-oval on the final lap.
The Dawsonville, Georgia native was fortunate enough to slide across the start-finish line in eighth, as a result of his No. 9 spinning back into the pack in front of Daniel Suarez. Elliott would later be awarded a seventh-place finish after runner-up Kevin Harvick was disqualified.
“It was fine. We got some decent stage points,” Elliott said after the race. “Finished [seventh], hopefully, that’s good enough to help us in the owner’s championship points.”
Heading to Charlotte’s ROVAL, a track in which many drivers have circled on their calendars as being an agent of chaos, Elliott is sitting comfortably. Not just because of his points position either, but because of his two prior victories at the 2.280-mile road course.
Image Courtesy of Andrew Coppley, HHP, Chevy Racing