The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season is now six races old as the month of March comes to a close. While the drivers and teams get set for back-to-back races in the great state of Virginia, it’s high time that we took a look at how the NASCAR standings are unfolding. Granted, we still have an eternity’s worth of racing between now and the start of the playoffs. That being said, the new Next Gen Cars are clearly already having an impact.
The first six races of this season have featured six unique winners. From defending NASCAR Cup Series Champion Kyle Larson to first-time Cup race winners Austin Cindric, Ross Chastain and Chase Briscoe, a full spectrum of drivers has managed to park it in victory lane. When it comes to the quality of racing, we have seen extremely competitive action on a weekly basis. One of the primary goals of the Next Gen Car was to create increased parity. So far, it certainly seems to be doing the trick.
There are certainly some surprising names hovering around the top of the NASCAR standings. In addition, a few of the sport’s typical heavyweights are not off to ideal starts this season. The following article contains a table with the updated NASCAR Cup Series point standings. Discussion of several noteworthy developments after the first six races is also included.
NASCAR Cup Series Standings Update | After Race 6 at Circuit of the Americas
Refer to the table below for the updated NASCAR Cup Series points standings through the first five races of the season. The table also includes additional NASCAR Cup Series stats including Wins, Top-5 Finishes, Top-10 Finishes and Stage Wins. The table is sortable by driver and statistic for your viewing convenience.
|Car Number||Driver||Projected Playoff Seed||Standings Points||Wins||Top-5's||Top-10's||Stage Wins|
|19||Martin Truex Jr.||N/A||709||0||3||10||7|
|47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||N/A||395||0||1||5||0|
Three First-Time Winners Score Early-Season Trips to Victory Lane
In addition to the more even playing field that the Next Gen Cars have introduced, the NASCAR Cup Series is loaded to the brim with talent. Along with the established veterans of the sport, there are plenty of young drivers on the verge of breaking out. The first six races of the 2022 season have produced a whopping THREE first-time Cup Series winners. As a result, this year’s playoff field is already guaranteed to include some fresh faces.
Team Penske’s Austin Cindric got the first-time winner’s parade started in the very first race of the season. The 23-year-old became the first NASCAR Cup Series rookie to win the prestigious Daytona 500 since Trevor Bayne back in 2011. Cindric also became the second driver in as many years to score Career Win No. 1 in the Great American Race after Michael McDowell did so last season.
Just three weeks later, Chase Briscoe became the next driver to score his first trip to victory lane. Briscoe blew away the competition on the final restart to win his first race in his sophomore NASCAR Cup Series campaign. It was a much-needed boost for a Stewart-Haas Racing team that went winless all of last season.
This past weekend, 28-year-old Ross Chastain became the third first-time winner of the young season. Considering that he had scored top-3 finishes in each of the three races prior to Circuit of the Americas, Chastain’s win didn’t exactly come from out of nowhere. An aggressive last-lap move on road course ace A.J. Allmendinger was enough to send the former Watermelon Farmer to victory lane. The win was also the first for Chastain’s new team, Trackhouse Racing, which is only in its second season of operation.
Chase Elliott Leads Winless Trio Atop the NASCAR Standings
One interesting trend that stands out in the updated NASCAR Cup Series standings is the fact that none of the top-three drivers have won a race thus far. In fact, points leader Chase Elliott is the only Hendrick Motorsports driver who has yet to take the checkered flag. All three of Elliott’s teammates (Alex Bowman, William Byron, Kyle Larson) have won a race early in the season. Despite this, it is Elliott who tops the NASCAR standings table as the only driver with over 200 points after six races.
Behind Elliott in the standings are a pair of Team Penske drivers. While rookie Austin Cindric scored a win in the biggest race of the year, neither Ryan Blaney nor Joey Logano have yet to reach victory lane. Nonetheless, they are locked into top-three rankings in the points through the first six races. Blaney has been one of the most consistent cars on a weekly basis this season and really could have multiple wins if not for poor execution late. The No. 12 team has recorded two stage wins but has failed to close the deal when it matters most. Like Blaney, Logano has a trio of top-10 finishes.
Points Penalty Drops Brad Keselowski to Bottom of NASCAR Cup Series Standings
When running down the top ten drivers in the updated NASCAR standings, three names stand out as being notably absent. One of those is defending Cup Series champion, Kyle Larson. Although he won the second race of the year at Auto Club Speedway, Larson sits just 16th in the points. Denny Hamlin, who battled Larson for the regular-season points title last season, is also missing. In fact, Hamlin has yet to even record a top-10 finish. Three DNFs in the first six races have led to Hamlin sitting just 22nd in the points. Needless to say, this is unfamiliar territory for the No. 11 team.
The other NASCAR Cup Series veteran who is nowhere close to the top of the standings is Brad Keselowski. In fact, the former champion is languishing at the very bottom of the points ladder. To be clear, Keselowski has earned more than 45 points through the first six races. However, NASCAR docked the No. 6 team 100 standings points as a penalty for tampering with a Next Gen Car part that is supposed to be constant across the series.
As a result of the massive 100-point penalty, Keselowski is virtually in a must-win situation if he hopes to qualify for the 2022 NASCAR Playoffs. The infraction is certainly a major blow for RFK Racing in Keselowski’s first season as an owner-driver with the organization. While a driver of his skillset cannot be counted out as far as overcoming this setback, winning in a highly-competitive NASCAR Cup Series won’t be easy.