A year after one quarter of the drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series playoff field were making their first postseason appearance, who could do it in 2023?
Five of the 16 drivers in the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs were not in the postseason the year before, and four of those five drivers were making their first career postseason appearance.
Team Penske rookie Austin Cindric made it in by winning the season-opening Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe qualified by winning at Phoenix Raceway.
Trackhouse Racing Team teammates Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez each earned their first career victories as well, with Chastain winning at Circuit of the Americas and Talladega Superspeedway and Suarez winning at Sonoma Raceway.
Who will get to the playoffs for the first time in 2023? Here are five possibilities.
Drivers who could steal their first playoff spots: No. 1 – Bubba Wallace
23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace is an obvious candidate to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in 2023. He hasn’t gone a year without winning since joining the Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan-owned team, yet both of his wins have come when the playoffs had already started — and he wasn’t a part of the playoff field.
He won at Talladega Superspeedway in 2021 and Kansas Speedway in 2022. Now can he finally manage to find victory lane in the regular season? If not, it might be tough to qualify for the postseason on points, as we saw last year with 16 different regular season winners.