The NASCAR Cup Series has completed the first 16 races of the 2022 season. This week, the sport has its first and only bye week of the year. The season will resume next Sunday at Nashville Superspeedway with TV coverage shifting from FOX Sports to NBC. That’s right fans, make sure you tune in to the right station next weekend! Rest assured, FlurrySports will post the full NASCAR Ally 400 TV schedule next week. For now, we are going to dive into the updated NASCAR Cup Series standings following last week’s race at Sonoma.
To say that the Toyota Save Mart 350 shook up the NASCAR standings and playoff bubble would be an understatement. After all, the road race produced yet another first-time Cup Series winner in Daniel Suarez. Seeing how Suarez was well behind the playoff cutline on points entering the weekend, he effectively stole a berth from one of the drivers sitting on the bubble. With only ten regular-season races remaining, the stakes and pressure will only increase after the bye week!
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 16 races is also included.
NASCAR Cup Series Standings Update | After Race 16 at Sonoma
Refer to the table below for the updated NASCAR Cup Series points standings through the first 16 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|
Daniel Suarez Scores First Career Win as Trackhouse Racing Success Continues
To say that Daniel Suarez had absorbed his fair share of bad breaks this season would be an understatement. The No. 99 car had been fast on several occasions prior to Sonoma in 2022. In fact, Suarez is one of just 11 NASCAR Cup Series drivers who has won multiple stages this season. It was simply a matter of the team closing the deal. The original Trackhouse Racing crew did that and then some last Sunday.
Not only did Suarez score the race win, but he largely dominated the entire field in the final stage of the Toyota Save Mart 350. Runner-up Chris Buescher attempted to make a charge with a number of laps remaining. However, he failed to get all the way to Suarez’s bumper and fell back. The resulting margin of victory was well over three full seconds. Of course, no one will soon forget Suarez and the team’s celebration after the race either, complete with a smashed pinata and plenty of emotion.
Suarez went into Sonoma sitting 20th in the NASCAR standings. While it was still mathematically possible for him to point his way into the playoffs, a win was clearly his best path to take. Consider that business to be taken care of. The win ensures that both Trackhouse Racing Chevrolets will compete for the 2022 series championship. The fact that this is only the team’s second year of operation makes their success all the more impressive.
Ross Chastain Jumps Chase Elliott for Top Spot in NASCAR Playoff Seeding Picture
As if Suarez’s race win wasn’t enough, teammate Ross Chastain came home seventh at Sonoma. This marked his tenth top-10 finish of the season. That total is tied with NASCAR points standings leader, Chase Elliott for the second-most of any driver. Although Elliott still leads the overall points standings, Chastain is now in a position to be the 1-seed in this fall’s NASCAR Playoffs after closing the gap between the two over the past several weeks.
Needless to say, if the first 16 races of the season taught us anything, it’s that Trackhouse Racing is not to be taken lightly.
Pressure on Playoff Bubble Drivers Grows Following Daniel Suarez Win
By virtue of his win at Sonoma, Daniel Suarez managed to leapfrog several drivers who came into the race ahead of him in the NASCAR standings. Unfortunately for all of those drivers, his win also took away another playoff spot that could have been theirs. Thus, the playoff bubble got squeezed even tighter heading into the lone bye week of the season.
So, who is going to be feeling the pressure when the action resumes next week in Nashville? It’s hard to count Ryan Blaney among the drivers sweating the most. After all, he is 95 points above the cutline and will likely find victory lane sometime before the end of the regular season. The same can be said for Martin Truex Jr. who is currently 65 points to the good. As for the current 15-seed Christopher Bell and 16-seed Aric Almirola? Well, let’s just say the margin for error is slim.
Despite being one of the most consistent drivers this season, Bell is only 28 points above the current playoff cut line. Meanwhile, there are merely seven points separating Almirola from his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, Kevin Harvick, the first driver below the cutline.
Youngster Tyler Reddick is still very much in the mix as well despite a brutal result at Sonoma. He will go into Nashville only 42 points back of Almirola in the NASCAR Cup Series standings. Reddick’s Richard Childress Racing teammate, Austin Dillon, is 47 points behind while Erik Jones is 55 back. He rounds out the list of drivers who could realistically still qualify for the playoffs on points.
Will there be 16 Different Regular-Season Winners?
Through 16 of 26 NASCAR Cup Series regular-season races, a dozen different drivers have already visited victory lane. Suddenly, a feat that was merely a pipe dream in previous years prior to the advent of the Next Gen Car seems quite possible. With ten races remaining before the playoffs, one of the top questions on the mind of fans is whether or not we will have 16 different winners this season?
Why would 16 winners be a big deal? Well, under the current NASCAR standings format, winning a race automatically locks a driver into the playoffs. Okay, yes, they have to be among the top-30 on points. But other than for guys like Corey LaJoie and Cody Ware, maintaining a top-30 standing is pretty easy to do. Thus, 16 different winners would mean that not one playoff spot would be awarded based on season-long points accumulation.
Looking at the drivers who are still winless after Sonoma, 16 different winners is certainly a possibility. One has to assume that the likes of Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., Christopher Bell and Kevin Harvick are capable of winning a race eventually. Aric Almirola, Tyler Reddick and Austin Dillon also can’t be counted out.
Remaining Schedule Could Result in More Surprise Winners
While the seven drivers listed above are the most likely candidates to win a race, the remaining schedule before the playoffs is more than capable of producing chaos in the NASCAR standings. There are three more road course races in the regular season. The superspeedway race at Daytona to close the season is as unpredictable as it gets. For that matter, the second race at Atlanta can be lumped into the “superspeedway” category as well given how the reconfigured version of the 1.5-mile track runs.
With so much variation in terms of the tracks that the NASCAR Cup Series will visit between now and the playoffs, there very well could be some surprise winners that manage to steal playoff bids. Michael McDowell is one who can’t be counted out at any road course. Meanwhile, McDowell, Justin Haley, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Brad Keselowski, Bubba Wallace and even Corey LaJoie are all renowned superspeedway racers.
Then there’s Erik Jones and the No. 43 Petty GMS Motorsports team. With the way they have been overachieving this season, a win is cannot be counted out of the realm of possibilities for this team regardless of the track.