This past Sunday, the NASCAR Cup Series ran the M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400 at Pocono Raceway. To say that it was a wild race weekend would be an understatement. The 21st race of the NASCAR season offered up a little bit of everything. However, no one could have foreseen the post-race disqualifications of each of the top two finishers, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch. In addition to shuffling the results of the race itself, the DQs also altered the outlook of this week’s NASCAR Cup Series standings.
The following article contains a table with the updated NASCAR Cup Series standings through the first half of the regular season. Discussion of several noteworthy developments after the first 21 races is also included.
NASCAR Cup Series Standings Update | After Race 21 at Pocono
Refer to the table below for the updated NASCAR Cup Series points standings through the first 21 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||754||0||3||11||7|
|47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||N/A||432||0||1||5||0|
Impact of Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch Disqualifications on NASCAR Standings
If there was any doubt remaining with regard to NASCAR more closely enforcing setup and modifications with the new Next Gen Cars, it was removed following Sunday’s M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400. Denny Hamlin may have crossed the finish line first, but his win was ultimately rescinded by NASCAR after the race. Just how foreign and unprecedented was this decision? Well, Sunday’s post-race disqualification of Hamlin marked the first time that a winner had been DQ’d since 1960.
Of course, Hamlin wasn’t the only Joe Gibbs Racing driver who was disqualified for a failed post-race inspection. Teammate Kyle Busch also had his stellar performance wiped out entirely due to the same illegal modification. This rolled the Pocono race victory over to third-place finisher and NASCAR standings leader, Chase Elliott. It will officially go into the record books as Elliott’s fourth win of the season and third in the last five weeks.
Combine Elliott’s win along with the fact that Hamlin wrecked Ross Chastain out of the race and the gap between first and second in the standings is now larger than 100 points. As such, Elliott is well on his way to winning the regular season points championship. Chastain did benefit from the JGR DQ’s in the form of a playoff point. Despite crossing the line behind Busch at the end of Stage 2, the disqualifications reassigned the stage win to Chastain.
As far as the two disqualified drivers themselves, Hamlin was set to climb into the top-3 in terms of playoff seeding with what would have been his third win of the year. Instead, he remains as the 8-seed and is still just 20th in total points on the year. Busch dropped to the 10-seed in the NASCAR Playoffs picture despite leading the most laps at Pocono.
Petty GMS Motorsports Drivers Docked 35 Points Each
The NASCAR Cup Series race weekend at Pocono was essentially bookended by inspection penalties. Before even taking the track for practice and qualifying, both Petty GMS Motorsports cars were nailed fresh off the haulers for illegal rocker box assemblies. These pre-race penalties proved to be costly for Petty GMS Motorsports drivers Erik Jones and Ty Dillon. Both drivers were hit with a 35-point penalty in the NASCAR standings. Both the No. 43 and No. 42 were also docked 35 owner points as a result of the infractions.
Based on how the NASCAR Cup Series standings stood coming into Pocono, the loss of points isn’t necessarily catastrophic for Jones and Dillon’s playoff hopes. Both drivers were too far back of the cutline to point their way in. Thus, winning one of the remaining regular season races remains the goal for both drivers. While Jones managed to score a top-10 finish and actually gain seven points on the weekend despite the penalty, the same cannot be said for Dillon who finished 22nd at Pocono.
The point deduction and poor finish combined to produce a negative points weekend for Dillon. He fell to 30th in the NASCAR standings as a result. Why is this significant? Well, keep in mind that even a race win won’t qualify a driver for the playoffs if he fails to finish the year top-30 in points. After the Pocono debacle, Dillon now finds himself only 47 points ahead of Corey LaJoie for that vital 30th spot.
Bubba Wallace, Michael McDowell Among Most Likely Playoff Bid Thieves
Following Sunday’s M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400, there are just five races left on the regular season schedule. Case in point, time is running out for drivers who are currently below the playoff cutline to find their way into the championship chase. Under the current NASCAR standings format, a race win is all that it would take. When it comes to drivers who fit the definition of possible playoff bid thieves, Bubba Wallace and Michael McDowell are two to keep a close eye on.
After running a terrific race at New Hampshire to finish third, Bubba Wallace followed it up with an eighth-place run at Pocono. All of a sudden, the No. 23 team is building momentum at the right time. As a Joe Gibbs Racing affiliate, we already know that 23XI Racing has the quality of equipment and speed needed to win races. Based on his strengths as a driver, Wallace’s best bets to secure a win will be at Michigan and Daytona.
Michael McDowell, Front Row Motorsports Levied Costly Penalty After Pocono Race
As for Michael McDowell, he seemingly came out of nowhere to score a sixth-place finish at Pocono last weekend. This marked the eighth top-10 result of the season for the No. 34 team. Unfortunately, McDowell had his name added to the list of penalized drivers on Tuesday. The illegal part modification resulted in a costly L2-level penalty. This includes a 100-point deduction and a four-week suspension for crew chief, Blake Harris.
While the penalty dropped McDowell from 20th to 26th in the NASCAR Cup Series standings, the silver lining is that he had no shot to point his way into the playoffs as it was. The focus remains on winning one of the five remaining races. As an accomplished road racer, McDowell will certainly be in the mix at Indianapolis and Watkins Glen. Of course, he also is one of the best superspeedway racers in the sport today which will keep him in play to win at Daytona in the regular season finale.