Race Weekend Central

Friday Faceoff: How Many More Cup Wins Will Come From Non-Playoff Drivers?

After Erik Jones’ NASCAR Cup Series win at Darlington Raceway, how many more wins do you expect from non-playoff drivers this season?

Luken Glover: At least two more non-playoff drivers’ wins would not be out of the realm of possibility. Kansas Speedway presents a favorable opportunity for Martin Truex Jr. and Bubba Wallace. Jones has a solid history at Bristol Motor Speedway. The Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL fits into the wheelhouse of Michael McDowell, Chris Buescher and AJ Allmendinger. And then there’s the great unknown of Talladega Superspeedway. If you thought 2022 has been crazy, it’s likely to get more bizarre.

Brad Harrison: There is absolutely no reason for there to not be at least one or two. 23XI Racing was very good at Kansas earlier this year, and there is no reason for that not to be the case again. You definitely have to look at Wallace both there and at Talladega Superspeedway, since he runs well on superspeedways. Truex showed us last week that no playoffs doesn’t mean no intensity for the No. 19. Plus, with the Charlotte ROVAL coming up, anything can happen.

Amy Henderson: Truex headlines a list of drivers who are absolutely capable of winning races this fall. Brad Keselowski also comes immediately to mind. Buescher has looked close. Pretty much everyone is a contender at Talladega. I hope we see many non-playoff winners; the constant playoff talk on the broadcasts gets old fast and a bunch of other guys contending for wins force their hand to change the way these races are covered. Plus, it changes playoff strategy when those teams know they can’t count on wins to move them forward, particularly this year when nobody really has enough playoff points to rely on to move on. The more the merrier at the victory party.

Mike Neff: While the thought of non-playoff drivers writing Cinderella scripts is intriguing, the bottom line is the best 16 drivers in the sport make the playoffs. It is possible that there may be a surprise winner at the Charlotte ROVAL or Talladega, the odds simply are in favor of the 16.

See also
4 Burning Questions: Can Michael McDowell Win a Road Course in the Next Gen Car?

Michael McDowell continued his strong season at Darlington and has career highs in top 10s and laps led. Is McDowell emerging as a 2023 Cup playoff contender?

Harrison: I’ll be stunned if he is not in the postseason next year with either a win or by points. Crazy as it seems to say, McDowell has had a better year this year than last year, when he made the postseason via his Daytona 500 win. Running consistently sets the tone for the next season, and McDowell has done just that.

Henderson: With the newfound parity in the sport, provided NASCAR doesn’t do anything in the offseason to change it, drivers like McDowell are showing what they’re made of. It also means, as we’ve seen this year, pointing into the playoffs is not a done deal for anyone, and McDowell will have to win his way in. But on a superspeedway or road course in particular, he’s got a very good chance of doing that. An underfunded team won’t be a championship threat, but he can absolutely make the show.

Neff: McDowell has honestly been a playoff contender since he won the 2021 Daytona 500. He had great road racing skills, and Front Row Motorsports has gotten better at fielding competitive oval cars. McDowell has a better-than-average shot at making the playoffs next season.

Glover: McDowell will be a playoff contender in 2023. One thing we’ve learned with the Next Gen car is that road courses may be the tracks at which smaller teams can focus on winning. McDowell’s top 10 total of 11 is equal to or more than seven playoff drivers, including William Byron and Denny Hamlin. With the consistent strides FRM has been making, expect McDowell to be in the playoff hunt next year.

With the rule changes NASCAR made for the Next Gen car following a pair of fires at Darlington Raceway, will there be a noticeable difference at Kansas?

Henderson: I hope not. NASCAR did the right thing by hopefully fixing the fire issue, but I don’t want it to change the racing or give anyone an advantage. That would be a real shame, as good as the racing has been this year.

Neff: Noticeable? Can you tell the difference between 195 and 194? NASCAR added some changes to the rulebook that will hopefully reduce rubber buildup and ultimately reduce the potential for fires. It shouldn’t really make an aerodynamic difference, so the cars should not race any differently.

Glover: The new changes to fix the fire issues likely will provide an extra variable to cope with, but how much it affects the car remains to be seen. One thing that will be interesting is that Goodyear changed the tire code for Kansas, meaning a different tire construction will be on display from the spring. With the exception of Kyle Larson, Toyota dominated the spring race, but tire alterations can alter things in a hurry, especially in two different weather seasons.

Harrison: Maybe a little bit, but not by much. With so much info available today, teams will pick up pretty quickly on what to expect. At the end of the day, it’s an intermediate trackm and by this time in the season, teams have picked up on plenty off of which to work.

See also
Did You Notice?: NASCAR 0-Fors on Safety, Wins Reshaping Playoff Drama

Which two drivers will be eliminated from the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series playoffs this weekend?

Neff: Unquestionably it comes down to three drivers: Matt Crafton, Christian Eckes and Carson Hocevar. Eckes drives for ThorSport Racing, the strongest team in the series. Crafton has the best average finish at Kansas among the three contenders. Hocevar has kept it close and should have an opportunity but is going to be struggling against odds to advance.

Glover: Barring issues for drivers seventh or above in points, it comes down to Crafton, Hocevar and Eckes. Ben Rhodes isn’t comfortable by any means, but the defending champion should make his way through. Crafton is obviously the most experienced and has several Kansas wins. However, Hocevar’s momentum and grit are more favorable, leaving Crafton and Eckes below the cut line.

Harrison: Hocevar and Crafton. Hocevar has fought through adversity to make the postseason, and at some point you wonder if the grind may take a toll. Crafton has been down this road before but needs something to click in a hurry to make another championship run.

About the author

Amy is an 20-year veteran NASCAR writer and a six-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. As well as serving as Photo Editor, Amy writes The Big 6 (Mondays) after every NASCAR Cup Series race. She can also be found working on her bi-weekly columns Holding A Pretty Wheel (Tuesdays) and Only Yesterday (Wednesdays). A New Hampshire native whose heart is in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits have extended everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports. She can also be heard weekly as a panelist on the Hard Left Turn podcast that can be found on AccessWDUN.com's Around the Track page.

Luken Glover joined the Frontstretch team in 2020 as a contributor, furthering a love for racing that traces back to his earliest memories. Glover inherited his passion for racing from his grandfather, who used to help former NASCAR team owner Junie Donlavey in his Richmond, Va. garage. A 2023 graduate from the University of the Cumberlands, Glover is the author of "The Underdog House," contributes to commentary pieces, and does occasional at-track reporting. Additionally, Glover enjoys working in ministry, coaching basketball, playing sports, and karting.

What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

3 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Echo

23 this, 23 that, it’s a 20th place car folks. The end.

Bill B

So are you saying if we get to 19 winners this season then Bubba should get the next win?
BTW, he is in the 45 the rest of the season (unless Kurt B returns).

Echo

lol no I’m saying he’s driving a joe Gibbs car and is 20th in the standings and I keep reading bubba this and that constantly. Looking at all the teams and cars, he should be a lot higher.

Share via