NASCAR points leader technically did not change

Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

Since the NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway, the lead of the point standings has officially changed hands three times.

Alex Bowman finishing the NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway in ninth place, coupled with Denny Hamlin intentionally running then-points leader Ross Chastain into the wall in overtime, resulted in the driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet taking the lead of the point standings for the first time in his career.

But a few days later, Bowman was issued a 100-point and 10-playoff point penalty, as were teammates William Byron and Kyle Larson, plus all four Hendrick Motorsports teams in the owner standings.

These penalties were issued after it was discovered that the hood louvers on their Chevrolets had been illegally modified. Four-race crew chief suspensions and $100,000 fines were also issued.

Unapproved modification of a single-source vendor-supplied part is considered a major violation in the Next Gen era, and we saw NASCAR drop the hammer on multiple teams for similar violations a year ago.

But while a NASCAR appeals panel upheld the suspensions and fines, they rescinded the points penalties.

Bowman climbed from 16th place to the points lead, Byron shot up from 22nd to third, and Larson jumped from a 27th place tie to ninth.

Given the fact that nothing essentially changed as far as the standings are concerned in the long run, Bowman has technically been the points leader the whole time.

After the penalties were issued, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick, who had been three points behind Bowman following the race at Phoenix Raceway, took the lead.

Team Penske’s Joey Logano took the lead after winning the following race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but in terms of total points scored, Bowman had eight more and would have been the leader.

Then after this past Sunday afternoon’s race at Circuit of the Americas, Chastain retook the lead with a fourth place finish. Now with 100 additional points back, Bowman, who finished the race in third, is the leader by 15 points over Chastain.

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Can Bowman retain the lead after this coming Sunday afternoon’s race at Richmond Raceway, where he won in April 2021, or will he find himself out of first place in total points scored for the first time in more than three weeks? Tune in to Fox Sports 1 at 3:30 p.m. ET for the live broadcast of the Toyota Owners 400. Begin a free trial of FuboTV now!