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Only a couple of races into the NASCAR Cup Series season, it might be hard to imagine any drivers — especially playoff drivers from a season ago — already being in such a deep points hole that their playoff hopes are potentially in serious jeopardy.

But that’s exactly where Tyler Reddick, Chase Briscoe, and William Byron find themselves with only the Daytona 500 and last weekend’s race at Auto Club Speedway in the books for 2023.

Let’s take a look at what’s gone so terribly wrong for this trio of drivers in Weeks 1 and 2 and why they’re each in an awfully precarious spot heading into Sunday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Tyler Reddick

In his first season with Denny Hamlin- and Michael Jordan-owned 23XI Racing after two decent seasons and one spectacular season with Richard Childress Racing, Tyler Reddick has started out 2023 in the absolute worst way possible — with two DNFs in as many races. 

Reddick, who last year claimed three wins that included his first career victory in NASCAR’s premier series, finished 39th at Daytona and 34th at Fontana because of his involvement in crashes.

As a result, he’s a lowly 38th in the standings — worst among full-time Cup Series drivers and even worse than part-timers Jimmie Johnson and J.J. Yeley, who’ve each started only one of the first two races. Reddick is 88 points behind points leader Ross Chastain and 36 behind Michael McDowell, who would be the final transfer driver if the 16-driver playoff field was set today.

Just for context: The highest number of driver points one can earn in a race is 60 — 40 for winning the race and a total of 20 for winning both the first and second stages.

Clearly, unless Reddick clinches a playoff berth by winning a race in the final 24 weeks of the regular season, he has his work cut out for him if he needs to make the playoffs based on points.

Chase Briscoe

In only a slightly better predicament than Tyler Reddick after two races is third-year Stewart-Haas Racing driver Chase Briscoe, who ranks 33rd in the standings — 10 spots worse than he finished in his rookie Cup Series season of 2021. 

Briscoe, who came home ninth in the 2022 standings and collected Cup Series career victory No. 1 in the March race at Phoenix, wrecked out of the Daytona 500 with 18 laps of the originally scheduled distance remaining (the race ended up going 12 laps past advertised distance) and finished 35th despite leading five laps.

Last weekend in Southern California, Briscoe completed all 200 laps in his No. 14 SHR Ford but was never much of a factor and finished 20th.

“We definitely had high hopes going into here,” Briscoe said after the race via Team Chevy PR. “This is one of my better race tracks, and we just completely struggled all day long from a lot of different issues. That’s not how we wanted to run, obviously. We’ve got a lot of work to do going into next week, but I feel like we can learn from it and move on.”

Among full-time Cup Series drivers, only three rank worse than Briscoe in the standings at this juncture, and he’s 73 points out of first and 21 behind the current cutoff for playoff eligibility.

William Byron

Unlike two of his three Hendrick Motorsports teammates — Alex Bowman and Chase Elliott, who’ve started off the season on solid footing — it’s been a rough introduction to 2023 for William Byron.

A two-time winner and Round of 8 qualifier last year, Byron was caught up in a 13-car melee at the Daytona 500 on the first of two attempts at a green-white-checkered finish, and he placed 34th in the 40-car field with a damaged race car.

Then, last weekend at Auto Club Speedway, Byron endured another disappointing outing with his No. 24 Chevrolet as he finished two laps to the bad in 25th.

Byron, who has made the playoffs in each of the last four seasons, sits 29th in points and needs to leapfrog 13 others to be eligible for the playoffs on the basis of points. While the season is still young, Byron — like others in a similar position — can’t afford too many more bad finishes if he ends up not winning a regular season race and needing to rely on his place in the standings to make the playoff cut.


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