The NASCAR Cup Series successfully conquered its latest new venture this past weekend with a compelling race at World Wide Technology Raceway. Joey Logano staved off Kyle Busch in overtime to score his second win of the 2022 season. The race produced plenty of additional drama and storylines beyond Logano’s victory as well. It was a tough day for Ross Chastain as he got into both Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin. Considering where all three drivers sit in the updated NASCAR Cup Series standings, one has to reckon that each has a real shot at capturing the season championship. Chastain will most certainly need to be looking over his shoulder for any payback attempts Elliott and Hamlin may make going forward.
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 15 races is also included.
NASCAR Cup Series Standings Update | After Race 15 at St. Louis
Refer to the table below for the updated NASCAR Cup Series points standings through the first 15 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||Standings Points||Wins||Top-5's||Top-10's||Stage Wins|
|19||Martin Truex Jr.||145||0||0||1||0|
|47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||124||1||1||1||0|
Kyle Busch Stays Red-Hot at Gateway
The only outright win for Kyle Busch so far this season came on the dirt surface at Bristol. To say that he “stole” and/or “lucked into” that victory would be an understatement. While he may have just one trophy to date, Busch has been knocking on the door in seemingly every race for the past month. This past weekend’s Enjoy Illinois 300 proved to be no different. Busch simply could not make the outside line work on the overtime restart and wound up finishing second to Joey Logano at World Wide Technology Raceway.
Of course, Busch would have loved to have finished the weekend in St. Louis standing in victory lane. However, there is some silver lining for him and the No. 18 team to carry forward to Sonoma. Dating back to his win in the Food City Dirt Race, Busch has now finished top-3 in five of the last seven races. The only blip on the radar over the last two months in points-paying races came via a DNF at Darlington. The other non-top-3 showing was a solid seventh-place run at Dover. Busch’s runner-up at Gateway marked his second straight such finish after also finishing second in the Coca-Cola 600.
Given how hot Busch has been of late, it’s no surprise to see him making up ground in the NASCAR standings. After his strong run at World Wide Technology Raceway, “Rowdy” is suddenly heating up points leader Chase Elliott in a big way. What was once an advantage in excess of 50 points for Elliott has now been whittled down to a nine-point lead over Busch. All of a sudden, the race for the regular-season points championship has gotten a whole lot more interesting.
Beef Between Denny Hamlin, Ross Chastain Could Impact Championship Picture
Kyle Busch hasn’t been the only driver quickly closing in on Chase Elliott in the NASCAR Cup Series points standings. Two-time winner Ross Chastain continues to drive like a legit championship contender week in and week out. An eighth-place run at Gateway brought “The Melon Man” within 20 points of Elliott in the updated NASCAR standings.
On the surface, Chastain’s top-10 finish in the Enjoy Illinois 300 would seem to indicate that he had yet another solid day. In reality, it was anything but. Chastain got into the back of Denny Hamlin in an awkward moment early on in the race. The resulting damage put Hamlin several laps down, but he continued to turn laps. While doing so, the slower No. 11 Camry intentionally held up Chastain on multiple occasions.
Then, on a restart about halfway through the race, Chastain also made contact with Chase Elliott while trying to thread the needle in a three-wide battle. That thwarted Elliott’s race as well as he went on to a 21st-place finish. Although this second incident was simply a racing deal, Chastain was driving very aggressively for that point in the race. Later, Elliott and Hamlin appeared to tag-team the No. 1 car on a restart. Although Chastain owned up to his mistakes after the race, drivers like Hamlin and Elliott may not be willing to let this one go anytime soon.
For Chastain and Trackhouse Racing, having a short memory when it comes to the race at Gateway could prove vital to their pursuit of the top spot in the NASCAR Cup Series standings going forward. Although the threat of retaliation down the road is now real, Chastain must focus on what he can control and not let the rough day at Gateway bog down his mental psyche.
Playoff Cutline Battle Continues to Take Shape with 11 Races Remaining
As the battle for the top spot in the NASCAR standings continues to heat up, the same can be said involving the race for the final playoff spots. The completion of the race in St. Louis leaves only 15 more starts left before the start of the NASCAR Playoffs. The jury is still out on whether we will see 16 drivers win a race and clinch a playoff berth automatically. Regardless, those around the cutline are in need of quality runs each and every week to give themselves the best chance possible at qualifying to race for a championship.
Through 15 races, each of the last three spots in the top-16 of the NASCAR Cup Series standings are occupied by drivers without a win. Thanks to a pair of stage wins, Tyler Reddick is sitting 14th in the current points standings. He is ahead of Christopher Bell and Aric Almirola, respectively, despite having accumulated fewer total points than both drivers. Bell has been throwing down top-5 and top-10 finishes seemingly every week of late. Meanwhile, boosted his standing with a top-5 effort at World Wide Technology Raceway.
Almirola jumping up in the NASCAR standings actually came at the expense of his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, Kevin Harvick. An unfortunate DNF at Gateway bumped Harvick to 17th in the points standings. The thought of the No. 4 team missing the playoffs entirely is pretty wild to even fathom. Behind Harvick, three other drivers still have a realistic shot to point their way into the top-16. Erik Jones continues to exceed expectations and is 18th in the standings after St. Louis. Austin Dillon and Daniel Suarez round out the full list of 20 drivers who have surpassed the 300-point threshold at this point in the season.
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