Several NASCAR Cup Series playoff regulars could end up finding themselves failing to qualify for this year’s postseason. Here are the five most at risk.
The introduction of the Gen 7 car has shaken things up to start the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season. And while it’s still early, there are several of the sport’s veterans — and playoff regulars — who find themselves in tough positions as the young drivers continue to have success and parity continues to be a major storyline.
A record 12-race winning streak of drivers under 30 years old only recently came to an end, and the first win by a full-time driver in his 30s in nine months came only after a last-lap crash involving the actual race leaders, both of whom under 30.
But which playoff regulars could find themselves in vulnerable positions by the time the regular season ends? Here’s a look at five.
NASCAR drivers in jeopardy: No. 1- Kevin Harvick
Through nine races, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick has posted an average finish of 15.2, which would be his worst since the 2009 season. The 2009 season was also the most recent season during which he failed to qualify for the playoffs.
Harvick’s struggles didn’t just start, either. After a nine-win 2020 season, he went winless in 2021 for the first time since 2009, ending an 11-year winning streak. He still made the playoffs, but he was the 15th of 16 drivers to qualify, and he began the postseason as the lowest seeded driver.
He still finished in ninth place in the regular season point standings, but the last driver to make it in on points ranked 11th. Right now, Harvick sits in 13th, and he sits in 15th in the playoff picture thanks to the variety of winners the 2022 season has already produced. And with 17 regular season races remaining, there should still be quite a few more.
Can Harvick be one of them, or will he need to pick up his point tally to make his 13th straight playoff appearance?