The NASCAR Cup Series set a new record for lowest point spread among the top seven drivers through 16 races. But that was aided by an April penalty.
We are now 16 races into the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season as the series embarks upon its one and only off weekend between now and the championship race at Phoenix Raceway in early November.
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. is the sixth different points leader of the year after becoming the fourth driver to win twice, taking the checkered flag this past Sunday afternoon at Sonoma Raceway.
The point standings have been tight all season. And through 16 races in any previous season throughout the sport’s 75-year history, there has never been a closer spread between the top seven drivers.
Truex leads the way with 525 points, and he is just 32 points ahead of seventh place driver Christopher Bell, one of his three teammates.
Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron sits in second place, 13 points behind Truex, with Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney and Trackhouse Racing Team’s Ross Chastain a further 11 points behind Byron.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick is just one point behind Blaney and Chastain, and Richard Childress Racing’s Kyle Busch is just four points behind Harvick. Bell is three points behind Busch.
Keep in mind that there are additional playoff points awarded to drivers who finish in the top 10 in the regular season standings, with the champion securing 15.
Yes, the record itself is a bit specific in more ways than one, but nonetheless, it is still a record.
However, this would not have been possible without a significant penalty that NASCAR issued to William Byron earlier this year.
The 100-point issued to Byron and the No. 24 team for the hood louver violation discovered at Phoenix Raceway was later rescinded. However, they were then docked 60 points for a greenhouse violation at Richmond Raceway.
Without that penalty, Byron would be leading the point standings with 572 points. His gap over Truex would be 47 points alone, and the spread from first to seventh place would be 79 points, which is more than twice as large as the current 32-point spread.
That gap is even larger than the current gap from Truex to teammate Denny Hamlin (63 points) in eighth place. Ironically, Hamlin would be just 38 points out of the lead had he not been docked 25 points for admitting to intentionally putting Chastain into the wall at Phoenix Raceway.
Interestingly, Byron is not one of the six drivers who have spent time atop the standings at any point this season, despite the fact that he has scored more points than anybody through 16 races on the track itself.
Even more interestingly, the championship betting favorite at FanDuel Sportsbook is not one of these eight drivers.
The shortest odds among the eight belong to Busch (+600), followed by Byron (+750), Truex (+800), and Bell (+900). Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson, who sits in 10th place in the point standings, is the favorite at +500.
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The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season is scheduled to resume on Sunday, June 25 with the Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway. The race is set to be broadcast live on NBC beginning at 7:00 p.m. ET. Start a trial of FuboTV before then and watch the race for free!