Based on the numbers, Chase Elliott entered the playoffs as a clear if not overwhelming favorite to win the 2022 Cup Series championship. Along with starting the final 10 races seeded first among the 16 playoff drivers, Elliott amassed more playoff points and race wins than anyone in the regular season. He also led the most laps and won the regular season title. But Sunday’s playoff opener at Darlington proved to be nothing less than a disaster for the Hendrick Motorsports driver and 2020 Cup Series champion, who tumbled to ninth in the standings after finishing 36th with a DNF. Now, Elliott trails new championship leader Joey Logano by 24 points and is just 14 points to the good side of the cutoff for advancing to the next round.
While such a dismal start to the playoffs was certainly deflating for Elliott – a four-time race winner in 2022 – the second-generation driver can take at least some solace in knowing that he brings a history of success to Kansas Speedway this weekend. This success includes eight top-10 finishes in 13 Kansas starts, one of which produced a victory on the way to his championship in 2020.
However, even if Elliott doesn’t reestablish frontrunner status with a big rebound Kansas, he can perhaps find some comfort in knowing that the final race in the Round of 16 is at Bristol – one of his favorite tracks. And, provided that NASCAR’s most popular driver hangs on to reach the next round, he’ll likely start the round back atop the standings since the points standings are reset based on playoff points, which transfer from one round to the next.