NASCAR Cup Series: Major penalty mitigated — for now

William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports, Atlanta, NASCAR (Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images)
William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports, Atlanta, NASCAR (Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images) /

William Byron now leads the NASCAR Cup Series point standings for the first time in the 2023 season, despite a 60-point penalty earlier this season.

For the second straight NASCAR Cup Series season, Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron was the first driver to reach two wins, winning at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Phoenix Raceway back in March.

He was then hit with a 100-point penalty due to a hood louver violation, a violation which all four Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets were found to have committed.

That penalty was later overturned, but NASCAR dropped the hammer on the No. 24 team for another violation after the race at Richmond Raceway in April.

Byron and teammate Alex Bowman, plus both of their individual race teams, were docked 60 points due to a greenhouse violation.

Less than three months later, William Byron leads the NASCAR Cup Series standings for the first time in his career.

Byron would have been leading the standings heading into Sunday night’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway without the penalty. In fact, he would have been sitting atop the standings for a few weeks leading into this rain-shortened 185-lap race around the four-turn, 1.54-mile (2.478-kilometer) Hampton, Georgia oval.

He now officially owns a 21-point lead over Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr., having outscored Truex by 81 points on the race track through 19 races this season. If Byron can hang onto the points lead, he will be able to minimize the long-term effect of this penalty.

The regular season champion is awarded 15 playoff points at the end of the regular season, compared to 10 for the second place driver (and eight points through one point for third through 10th, respectively).

So if that 60-point penalty ends up costing Byron spots in the point standings, that translates to lost playoff points.

To add onto that, the penalty itself carried a five-playoff point deduction. Byron has scored 27 playoff points so far this season thanks to his four wins (five playoff points each) and his seven stage wins (one playoff point each), but that total sits at 22 due to the violation.

He still leads all drivers with 22 playoff points, but five additional ones would be nice, considering we have seen razor-thin margins determine who advances and who doesn’t in several rounds of the playoffs before.

FanDuel Sportsbook, which is offering fans $200 just for signing up and betting $20, lists Byron as the second favorite to be crowned this year’s NASCAR Cup Series champion at +700.

Odds and availability are subject to change, so lock in your $200 today!

Next. All-time NASCAR Cup Series wins list. dark

Can Byron hang onto the points lead following this Sunday afternoon’s Crayon 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway? The race is set to be broadcast live on USA Network beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET. Begin a free trial of FuboTV today and don’t miss it!