It all comes down to this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series regular season finale, the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway, this Saturday night under the lights, Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. If history is any indicator of what to expect this weekend, everybody has a chance at the win.
Grasping onto the 16th and final available 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoff spot currently on points is 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace, who is hoping to make the postseason for the first time in his career.
What bodes well for Wallace is there are only two drivers mathematically eligible to catch him this weekend. Joe Gibbs Racing’s rookie Ty Gibbs is ranked 17th in the Playoff standings outlook, 32 points behind Wallace, and in 18th is Trackhouse Racing’s Daniel Suarez 43 points back from the cutline.
But what doesn’t fall in Wallace’s favor is the 14 other drivers that are eligible for the postseason that are facing a ‘Win or Go Home’ situation this weekend and will be vying for that final postseason spot making Saturday night’s showdown that much more intense.
Since the inception of the Playoffs in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2004, Richmond Raceway hosted the regular season finale from 2004 to 2017 (14 years), and then from 2018-2019 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (oval) hosted the final regular season event.
This weekend marks the fourth time the 2.5-mile, high-banked Daytona International Speedway has hosted the NASCAR Cup Series regular season finale (2020-2023).
The NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs is currently operating in its third iteration of the postseason’s points system since its inception in 2004.
The first Playoff points system (from 2004 to 2009) had the top 10 to 12 drivers earn their position in the Playoffs by points only.
The second version of the Playoff points system (2010 to 2013) incorporated the top 10 drivers to get in on wins/points with the addition of two extra drivers referred to as the Wild Cards.
The third version of the Playoff points system (2014 to Present) features drivers vying for the top 16 Playoff spots either by points or the ‘Win and You’re In’ rule.
The third version of the Playoffs also instituted the elimination-style format with four drivers being eliminated from the Playoffs at the conclusion of each postseason round culminating with the Championship 4 battling it out for the title in the season finale.