Bubba Wallace Secures Final NASCAR Playoff Spot

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Bubba Wallace Secures Final NASCAR Playoff SpotSean Gardner - Getty Images

Roush Fenway Keselowski driver Chris Buescher is the winner of Saturday'sNASCAR Cup Series race at Daytona, the category's regular season finale. Buescher has already won twice this season, so 23XI Racing driver Bubba Wallace has secured the 16th and final spot in this year's playoff grid on points.

Wallace, a two-time winner in the Cup Series, never previously qualified because he won as a spoiler after the playoff field was set in both 2021 and 2022. He is the lone first-time playoff driver in this year's group of 16, where he will join teammate Tyler Reddick as the first two drivers to ever make the postseason for Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan's young 23XI Racing team. 23XI's Kurt Busch qualified for the 2022 playoffs with a win early last season, but he was injured before the playoffs began and the team ultimately did not seek a waiver for Busch to make the final field. Busch, who remains with the team as an advisor, formally retired earlier today.

Three other Toyota drivers, all from Joe Gibbs Racing, will join the 23XI duo in the 2023 field. Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., and Christopher Bell will seek to win that team its sixth driver's championship. None have won a title with Gibbs, a program that lost former champion Kyle Busch to Richard Childress Racing in the offseason.


RFK Racing's Buescher will be joined by Brad Keselowski, a team co-owner and the pushing driver behind Buescher's win today. They lead a six-car Ford contingent, which also includes Team Penske's Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney, Front Row Motorsports driver Michael McDowell, and Stewart-Haas Racing's retiring former champion Kevin Harvick.

The biggest surprise in the field is in the Chevrolet camp, where only two of four cars from the powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports program actually made the playoff field. Kyle Larson and William Byron are in, but Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman have missed the field after missing races with injuries and failing to secure a win. Richard Childress Racing's Kyle Busch, Trackhouse's Ross Chastain, and Daytona 500 winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. of JTG Daugherty round out an unusually small group from Chevrolet.

While Bowman and Elliott are the biggest names in the group of drivers unexpectedly missing the playoffs, the drivers that most narrowly missed a spot on the grid on points are JGR rookie Ty Gibbs and Trackhouse driver Daniel Suarez. Chase Briscoe, a top ten finisher in the 2022 championship, is also among the notable names to miss the playoff after receiving a major penalty earlier in the season.

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