Explaining the NASCAR playoff picture, where 17 drivers will battle for one final spot at Daytona

Bubba Wallace is in position to claim the final playoff position, but a surprise winner at Daytona could shake up the field

Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

The NASCAR playoffs are almost here.

Before the battle for the 2023 championship begins, the 16-driver postseason field must be finalized. There’s just one race remaining in the Cup Series regular season, set for Saturday at Daytona.

Most of the star drivers have already locked up their spots in the NASCAR playoffs, but there are some notable names still fighting to get in.

Here are all the details on the 2023 NASCAR playoff picture, including clinching scenarios for the regular season title, the final postseason spot and more:

What drivers are in the 2023 NASCAR playoffs?

Fifteen of the 16 playoff spots have been secured entering the regular season finale at Daytona. Here are the drivers who are locked in, listed in order of when they clinched and how they did it:

  1. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Daytona 500 winner
  2. Kyle Busch, Fontana winner
  3. William Byron, Las Vegas winner
  4. Joey Logano, Atlanta winner
  5. Kyle Reddick, Austin winner
  6. Kyle Larson, Richmond spring winner
  7. Christopher Bell, Bristol Dirt winner
  8. Martin Truex Jr., Dover winner
  9. Denny Hamlin, Kansas winner
  10. Ryan Blaney, Charlotte winner
  11. Ross Chastain, Nashville winner
  12. Chris Buescher, Richmond summer winner
  13. Michael McDowell, Brickyard winner
  14. Brad Keselowski, clinched based on points after Watkins Glen
  15. Kevin Harvick, clinched based on points after Watkins Glen

2023 NASCAR playoff standings entering Daytona

The playoff standings could still change at Daytona, with seven more playoff points up for grabs. Drivers have earned points throughout the season based on their stage wins and race wins.

Additionally, drivers will gain more playoff points based on where they finish in the regular season points standings (15 points for first, 10 for second, eight for third, seven for fourth, six for fifth and so on -- down to one point for 10th).

Here’s how the playoff drivers stack up before adding the points for regular season standings, because that order could change at Daytona (as you can see in the tweet above):

  1. William Bryon, 28 playoff points (5 race wins, 8 stage wins, lost 5 playoff points due to penalty)
  2. Martin Truex Jr., 20 playoff points (3 race wins, 5 stage wins)
  3. Kyle Busch, 17 playoff points (3 race wins, 2 stage wins)
  4. Denny Hamlin, 15 playoff points (2 race wins, 5 stage wins)
  5. Kyle Larson, 13 playoff points, (2 race wins, 3 stage wins)
  6. Chris Buescher, 11 playoff points (2 race wins, 1 stage win)
  7. Ross Chastain, 10 playoff points (1 race win, 5 stage wins)
  8. Tyler Reddick, 9 playoff points (1 race win, 4 stage wins)
  9. Ryan Blaney, 8 playoff points (1 race win, 3 stage wins)
  10. Joey Logano, 8 playoff points (1 race win, 3 stage wins)
  11. Christopher Bell, 7 playoff points (1 race win, 2 stage wins)
  12. Michael McDowell, 7 playoff points (1 race win, 2 stage wins)
  13. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 5 playoff points (1 race win)
  14. Brad Keselowski, 3 playoff points (3 stage wins)
  15. Kevin Harvick, 1 playoff point (1 stage win)

NASCAR regular season clinching scenario for Martin Truex Jr.

The 43-year-old Truex is on the verge of clinching the regular season title – and the all-important 15 playoff points that come with it.

Truex is 39 points ahead of his teammate Hamlin. The two Joe Gibbs Racing drivers are the only drivers still eligible for the regular season crown, with third-place Byron out of reach at 76 points behind.

Regardless of what Hamlin does on Saturday, Truex needs 22 points to clinch. He can accumulate those points in multiple ways – a 15th-place finish is an automatic 22 points. Truex could also earn up to 20 points in the first two stages, which would mean he could finish worse and still clinch.

Hamlin can earn a maximum of 60 points if he wins both stages and the race at Daytona. In that scenario, Truex would need to finish 15th with no stage points to clinch the title.

The clinching scenario for Truex will change throughout the race as stage points are earned. For example, if Hamlin doesn’t earn any points in Stage 1, Truex’s clinching finish would drop to 25th.

NASCAR playoffs clinching scenario for Bubba Wallace

Keselowski and Harvick have already clinched a playoff spot based on points. There could be a third driver to clinch based on points, if a current playoff driver wins on Saturday.

Assuming there’s a repeat winner, Bubba Wallace is currently in position to claim the 16th playoff spot. He’s 32 points ahead of Ty Gibbs and 43 points ahead of Daniel Suarez.

Wallace can clinch his first playoff berth if there is a repeat winner and he scores 24 points (13th-place finish with no stage points). Gibbs and Suarez are unlikely to catch Wallace barring an accident, so they will likely be searching for a victory to lock themselves in. That strategy could change if Wallace crashes out early in the race.

What drivers have to win to make the NASCAR playoffs?

While Gibbs and Suarez can technically get in based on points, they are basically in must-win territory. Additionally, these 14 drivers have to win at Daytona to make the playoffs:

AJ Allmendinger, Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, Austin Cindric, Justin Haley, Ryan Preece, Aric Almirola, Todd Gilliland, Corey LaJoie, Erik Jones, Austin Dillon, Harrison Burton, Chase Briscoe and Ty Dillon.

When is the NASCAR race at Daytona?

The Coke Zero Sugar 400 is set for Saturday, Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock.

When do the 2023 NASCAR playoffs start?

The 2023 NASCAR playoffs begin with the Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on Sunday, Sept. 3 at 6 p.m. ET on USA Network and

Contact Us