William Byron is leading the NASCAR Cup Series point standings and playoff standings, but he has actually scored more points than are being shown.
For the first time in his NASCAR Cup Series career, Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron sits atop the point standings following his series-leading fourth win of the 2023 season on Sunday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Byron owns a 21-point lead over Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. in second place, and his 22 playoff points are the most in the series, putting him five playoff points ahead of Richard Childress Racing’s Kyle Busch.
Keep in mind, the regular season champion is also awarded an additional 15 playoff points before the postseason, five more than the second place driver.
Yet both of William Byron’s point totals are lower than the point totals he has actually earned in the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season.
Byron has scored 81 points more than Truex has, and he has really racked up 27 playoff points, 10 more than Busch, thanks to his four wins (five playoff points each) and seven stage wins (one each).
Following the race at Phoenix Raceway, all four Hendrick Motorsports teams and drivers were docked 100 points and 10 playoff points for hood louver violations. While those points penalties were overturned a few weeks later, NASCAR dropped the hammer on Rick Hendrick’s team again the following weekend.
This time, Byron and the No. 24 team, plus Alex Bowman and the No. 48 team, were docked 60 points and five playoff points each for greenhouse violations. Those penalties did not end up being overturned.
Should Byron remain the points leader, he will have done everything possible to mitigate the effects of this major penalty, since he can still score the 15 bonus playoff points by becoming the regular season champion.
However, if this 60-point penalty ends up resulting in him finishing in a different position in the regular season point standings, that loss of playoff points could also hurt. Playoff points are awarded to the top 10 drivers in the regular season standings, provided they make the playoffs, on a 15-10-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 scale.
And of course, the five playoff points he was docked initially are five playoff points he cannot get back.
No matter how many playoff points he ends up with via his wins and stage wins, he will begin the playoffs — every round of the playoffs, that is — five playoff points shy of where he otherwise would have been. For his sake, let’s hope he doesn’t miss out on advancing to the next round by five points or less.
FanDuel Sportsbook, which is now offering fans an instant $200 for signing up and placing a single $20 bet, lists Byron as the second favorite to win this year’s championship at +700.
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The only other driver currently in the top 10 in the point standings who received a points penalty this season is Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin, who was docked 25 points after admitting to intentionally putting Trackhouse Racing Team’s Ross Chastain into the wall at Phoenix Raceway.
Those 25 points are the difference between Hamlin being in fifth and sixth place in the standings, though ironically Chastain is the driver in fifth, so had that whole situation not unfolded the way it did, things would probably look the same as they look points-wise between those two drivers.
Seven races remain on the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series schedule, starting with 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 now and don’t miss it!