There’s Just One Question Left in the NASCAR Regular Season

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The NASCAR Regular Season Leaves Just One QuestionSean Gardner - Getty Images

Tonight's NASCAR Cup Series race at Daytona is the 26th and final of the regular season. That means the fight for a championship starts in earnest next weekend. It also means a lot of teams are about to be eliminated.

In the modern NASCAR championship format, points are effectively reset for 16 leading drivers after this weekend's race. 13 regular-season winners and two drivers far enough ahead of the point cutoff line have been locked in, leaving just one spot left for either a new race winner tonight or the highest-remaining driver in the championship standings. Right now, 23XI Racing's Bubba Wallace holds that position by 32 points over Ty Gibbs and 43 points over Daniel Suarez. NASCAR's scoring system is complicated, but it effectively means that without a win that would otherwise render this question irrelevant, Suarez or Gibbs would need to have an excellent race while Wallace fails to score stage points early and misses out on a top 15 finish.

To control their own destinies, Suarez and Gibbs would still probably need to win tonight. For a crowded field of drivers that are nowhere near Wallace in the points, their only way in is to win. That group includes 2022 playoff drivers Austin Dillon and Austin Cindric. After mid-season injuries, that group also includes Hendrick Motorsports teammates Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman.


That makes tonight a relatively straightforward race. If Wallace wins or he has an average day and someone who has already recorded a win this season wins, he's into his first-ever Playoffs and has a shot t0 fight with fifteen others for his first championship. Those two other drivers have a shot if Wallace has a disastrous day, but, for every other driver not yet in the playoffs but eligible for a spot in the hunt for the driver's championship, a shot at the 2023 title can only be earned with a win tonight. That makes the goal the same for just under half the field: Win this race or finish the 2023 season with regrets.

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