CONCORD, N.C. – The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series regular season is winding down with three races left and four playoff spots up for grabs before the postseason begins.
Chase Elliott is 55 points outside of the provisional playoff cutline and has never missed the postseason. In the spring, the 27-year-old driver was sidelined for six races as he recovered from a fractured tibia and he missed an additional race due to a NASCAR suspension. Prior to an early exit at Michigan International Speedway, Elliott had an average finish of 8.56 with three top-five finishes and four top-10s in the past seven races. A win is the surest way for the driver of the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 to punch his ticket to the playoffs.
Of note, the No. 9 team is currently among the 16 teams that would be in the owner's playoffs. They are 14th in those standings.
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"My stance has been the same since I got back," Elliott said at Michigan. "I think we need to win."
One type of track where Elliott has found victory lane are road courses. His seven wins on serpentine layouts are the most among active drivers and third-most (behind NASCAR Hall of Famers Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart) in the sport’s history.
PHOTOS: See all of the road course wins for Hendrick Motorsports
While he has yet to win at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, the site of this weekend’s race, he does have a top-five finish there (fourth in the first race there in August 2021). His average running position of 7.91 (per NASCAR’s loop data) is the best in the field and he holds the second-best driver rating at 103.6.
"For me personally, I feel like it is one of the harder ones, if not the toughest on me," Elliott said of 14-turn, 2.439-mile layout. "Most road courses that we go to have a little bit of character at some point, little bit of banking or a little bit of something. That place is flat. Not really a lot of character to the road itself. Just a very flat road course, which I find a challenge because it’s hard to find ways to be different."
Alex Bowman is also looking to lay claim to one of the open playoff spots. The driver of the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 is 44 points outside the provisional playoff cutline after the race at Michigan. With new crew chief Blake Harris, Bowman hit the ground running, earning top 10s in six of the first seven races of the season. He missed three races due to a fractured vertebra and upon his return, has had some sort of misfortune every time the team is running well. The latest example of this happened at Michigan, where, after scoring 10 stage points, he was caught up in an incident that would bring an end to his race.
"We just keep having tough luck this season," Bowman said. "It's frustrating to have our day ended early with such a good No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. We have finally got back to running competitively, now we just need a little luck to go our way."
In his road-course racing career, Bowman has two runner-up finishes (coming at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL in 2019 and Circuit of The Americas in 2022). He ran the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis’ road layout in 2022 and finished second.
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Tune in to watch the road course action from Indianapolis on Sunday, Aug. 13, at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, NBC Sports App, IMS Radio Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90).