The NASCAR Cup Series has now completed the first two dozen races on the 2022 schedule. Last weekend’s Federated Auto Parts 400 proved how impactful momentum can be in NASCAR. After going 65 races without a win, Kevin Harvick parked it in victory lane at Richmond for the second week in a row. The five additional playoff points he earned by doing so enabled Harvick to become a legitimate championship contender. Meanwhile, Ryan Blaney managed to expand his lead ever so slightly over Martin Truex Jr. in the NASCAR Cup Series standings. Only two races remain in what is shaping up to be a heated points battle for the final playoff spot.
Below are the updated NASCAR Cup Series standings following the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond. Discussion of several noteworthy developments after 24 races is also included.
NASCAR Cup Series Standings Update | After Race 24 at Richmond
Refer to the table below for the updated NASCAR Cup Series points standings through 24 of 26 regular season races. 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|
Kevin Harvick Notches 60th Career NASCAR Cup Series Win
Momentum is an aspect of sports that is hard to quantify. However, it is very easy to recognize. As the NASCAR Cup Series regular season winds down, no one has more momentum than Kevin Harvick. The cagey veteran snapped a 65-race winless drought at Michigan two weeks ago. That victory was crucial in that it enabled Harvick to leapfrog the cutline and secure a spot in the NASCAR Playoffs. As if the Michigan result wasn’t enough of a statement, the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team had more in store for the NASCAR world this past weekend at Richmond.
For much of the first two stages of the Federated Auto Parts 400, Harvick looked to be a top-10 car at best. He slowly made his way towards the front of the field and finally got there in the final stage. Harvick took full advantage of the opportunity to restart on the front row following a caution and pulled out to a multi-second lead. Christopher Bell charged past Chris Buescher for second in the closing laps, but he simply did not have enough time to track down the No. 4 Ford Mustang.
In the span of two weeks, Harvick has gone from being a driver in dire straits with regard to simply making the playoffs to now being a legitimate championship contender. The 10 playoff points that the back-to-back wins have earned him have vaulted Harvick up to being the 7-seed in the latest NASCAR Playoffs standings.
Making Sunday’s win at Richmond all the more special was that it marked the 60th NASCAR Cup Series victory of Harvick’s Hall of Fame-worthy career. The 2014 series champion now sits tied with another active driver, Kyle Busch, for the ninth-most Cup Series wins all time.
Ryan Blaney Utilizes Stage Points to Pad Standings Lead Over Martin Truex Jr.
Of course, the NASCAR standings battle that everyone is closely monitoring is that between Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. Despite the fact that both drivers are situated among the top-4 in total points accumulated, they have been relegated to battling against one another for the final playoff spot. How can that be, you may ask? Well, neither Blaney nor Truex has managed to win a race so far this year. Under NASCAR’s new playoff format, a single race win does more to earn a spot in the playoffs than stockpiling points over the course of the season.
Unless both Blaney and Truex manage to win in the final two regular-season races, one of these drivers is going to miss out on the opportunity to race for the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Championship. Entering last week’s race at Richmond, Blaney held a 19-point lead over Truex for the 16th and final playoff spot.
Although Truex ultimately finished the race in seventh, three spots ahead of Blaney, it was the No. 12 team that emerged from the Federated Auto Parts 400 with a slightly greater advantage in the NASCAR standings. Thanks to earning stage points at the end of both Stages 1 and 2, Blaney now sits 26 points ahead of Truex with two races remaining before the playoffs.
Fans are advised to buckle up as this heavyweight points battle continues over the next two weeks. It could very well come right down to the last lap at Daytona in two weeks’ time as far as determining which of these drivers ultimately makes the NASCAR Playoffs.
RFK Racing Starting to Make Some Noise
Through 24 of 26 regular season races, neither of the two Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing teams can claim to have a top-20 status in the NASCAR Cup Series standings. It would take a win for either Chris Buescher or Brad Keselowski to actually qualify for the playoffs at this point. However, based on recent weeks and how both teams performed at Daytona to begin the season, said win suddenly feels like a real possibility.
Keselowski and Buescher went out and swept the Bluegreen Vacations Duel races in February ahead of the Daytona 500. Keselowski finished ninth in the Great American Race but had his momentum drained courtesy of NASCAR levying a 100-point penalty to No. 6 team for equipment modifications. Meanwhile, Buescher got off to a slow start in terms of finishing results. He also had to miss a race due to China Virus protocols, thus forfeiting a week’s worth of potential points.
Despite all of the struggles that RFK Racing has endured this season, the last three weeks are cause for optimism. At the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Buescher navigated the carnage to earn a top-10 finish. Although Keselowski and Buescher only finished 15th and 16th at Michigan the following week, both drivers earned stage points and qualified well. Keselowski rode another strong qualifying run to stage points at Richmond. The No. 17 car took its turn running up front at the end as Buescher earned a third-place finish.
Just like with Kevin Harvick, one could argue that both Buescher and Keselowski are building momentum. Knowing how well both drivers are capable of running at Daytona, it’s impossible to dismiss RFK Racing entirely. One of the two could very well steal a playoff bid in the regular season finale.