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The Field of 16: Projecting the Cup Series Playoffs entering Chicago

Take a look at Racing Insights’ latest Cup Series Playoff projections as the circuit shifts to Chicago on Sunday (4:30 p.m. ET, NBC).

Editor’s Note: Racing Insights’ playoff projections use a combination of current standings and historical performance at upcoming tracks to determine the probability of each driver winning or making the playoffs on points.

With the Cup Series Playoffs on the mind throughout the season, what if there was a way to project how the 16-driver field could look before each race weekend?

It now exists via Racing Insights. From now until the start of the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, “The Field of 16” will give fans a weekly look at where their favorite drivers could potentially land in the postseason field — and the likelihood of having a shot at the Bill France Cup.

Here’s this week’s update on the projections heading into the Chicago Street Race.

NOTABLE PROBABILITY SHIFTS POST-NASHVILLE

DRIVER BEFORE NASHVILLE ENTERING CHICAGO DIFFERENCE
Joey Logano 52.83% 99.99% +47.16
Ross Chastain 98.40% 89.07% -9.33
Ty Gibbs 90.08% 77.66% -12.42
Alex Bowman 70.11% 49.81% -20.30

chicago playoff predictor

DRIVERS SOLIDLY IN PLAYOFF PICTURE

Eleven drivers are provisionally locked into the 2024 Cup Series Playoffs, with four of those guaranteed as Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, William Byron and Christopher Bell have all won multiple times this season.

With seven races remaining in the regular season, Hendrick Motorsports teammates Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott are separated by just 20 points, respectively, at the top of the Cup Series standings that will award 15 playoff points to the regular-season points leader after the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

Elliott, Tyler Reddick, Brad Keselowski, Austin Cindric, Daniel Suárez, defending champ Ryan Blaney and most recently, Joey Logano, each have a win in 2024. With just five spots remaining and multiple surprise winners already this year, there’s no telling who could get in and which big-name drivers will be left without a postseason bid.

LAST 4 IN

Just a few weeks ago, you could be comfortable locking in Ross Chastain, Ty Gibbs and Alex Bowman into the 16-driver playoff field. After Logano’s stunning victory last weekend at Nashville, the playoff bubble is as tight as ever in its 10-year history.

Despite having 10 top-10 performances this season, Bowman is now the last driver provisionally in the top 16, holding a 51-point advantage over Bubba Wallace. Bowman’s probability also saw the biggest drop-off, from 70% to under 50%. The No. 48 did not finish last year’s Chicago race and was scored last.

Ross Chastain looked prime for a top-three finish at Nashville after pit strategy put him in the lead during the final stage. However, an aggressive restart from Larson resulted in the No. 5 shooting up the track in Turn 1, spinning and wrecking Chastain in the process. Chastain now only sits 66 points above the elimination line.

Ty Gibbs continues to slump in the early weeks of summer. He hasn’t scored a top-10 finish since the Coca-Cola 600 and is now just 70 points to the good above Wallace.

With three top-five finishes in the last four races, Chris Buescher continues to grind his way to a potential playoff spot. His probability now stands just under 88%, and with the speed the No. 17 RFK Racing Ford shows on a weekly basis, Buescher is due for a win before the postseason field is set.

FIRST 4 OUT

Everyone still outside the top 16 is about a race behind Bowman points-wise if that’s how they plan to make the postseason. Hence, it’s not an efficient plan to try to make the playoffs solely on points. It’s likely going to take a victory, and I have more confidence in the Front Row Motorsports duo of Michael McDowell and Todd Gilliland than I do in the two above them in Wallace and Kyle Busch.

Busch seemed to finally have good fortune at Nashville. Despite getting caught up in the Chastain incident in the first of a record five — yes, five overtimes last Sunday — Busch was given his spot back inside the top five. However, bad luck has always found “Rowdy” this season, and he was spun and wrecked during the third OT after Larson ran out of fuel and stacked the outside line right in front of the No. 8 Chevy.

His first top-10 at Nashville since Darlington was a mere consolation for Wallace, who probably wanted Logano to win the least. Road courses are still a learning process for the No. 23 driver, and he’ll need to tread lightly around the close-quartered street course to earn a solid points day on Sunday.

Front Row should be licking their chops this weekend as both McDowell and Gilliland could steal playoff points on Sunday. McDowell is coming off a runner-up result at Sonoma and finished seventh last year in Chicago. Gilliland was 10th at Sonoma and hasn’t finished outside the top 20 since Dover.

WHO CAN SHAKE UP PLAYOFF PICTURE AT CHICAGO?

Everyone who has yet to win this season is rooting for a repeat victor on Sunday. But there are so many question marks entering a weekend, especially if the weather plays nice. Shane van Gisbergen will be the most popular driver in the garage as he looks to defend his thrilling inaugural Chicago triumph. Of those going for a playoff spot, it has to be McDowell. If he’s able to put on another great qualifying run and score his fourth pole of 2024, the No. 34 driver is going to have everyone sweating on Sunday.

MORE: Racing Insights predicts Chicago | 2024 Cup Series schedule

Before each race weekend, check back into The Field of 16 to see the latest projections of the 2024 Cup Series playoff field.