NASCAR: Why Denny Hamlin has two ‘extra’ points

Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR playoffs (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR playoffs (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images) /

Denny Hamlin is set to start the round of 12 of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs just four points out of the lead of the standings.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin had the fastest car in all three races of the opening round of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, but his only round of 16 victory came in the finale at Bristol Motor Speedway last Saturday night.

His three wins this season have netted him a total of 15 playoff points, and his seven stage wins have added seven more. His runner-up finish in the regular season standings gained him an additional 10, giving him 32 to start the round of 12.

Hamlin sits in third place in the point standings to start the second round of the playoffs, four points behind teammate Martin Truex Jr. and Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron.

But Hamlin would have just 30 playoff points if not for a penalty issued to Byron — and he would be 13 points out of the lead.

Back in April, Byron and his No. 24 team were docked 60 points and five playoff points by NASCAR due to a greenhouse violation at Richmond Raceway.

In addition to those five playoff points, Byron ended up losing two more because of the fact that the regular points penalty cost him second place in the regular season standings. So he scored an additional eight playoff points instead of an additional 10.

With five wins and eight stage wins, he started the playoffs — and now the round of 12 — with 36 extra points instead of 43.

As for Hamlin, he was the beneficiary of the penalty, as he finished in second place in the regular season standings instead of third, thus scoring 10 extra playoff points instead of only eight.

Yes, Hamlin himself was docked 25 points earlier this season himself, after admitting that he intentionally drove Ross Chastain into the wall at Phoenix Raceway.

But he was not docked any playoff points as a part of that penalty, and even with those 25 points back, he would have finished behind an unpenalized Byron. He would not have had enough points to pass Truex for the regular season title either way.

Given how close we have seen some of the margins at the cut line over the years throughout the playoff rounds, could Byron’s penalty five-plus months ago end up making a significant difference?

FanDuel Sportsbook, which is now giving fans an instant $200, currently lists Hamlin as the favorite to win this year’s championship, but not by much.

With odds and availability subject to change, lock in your guaranteed $200 now!

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The Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400 is scheduled to get the round of 12 underway on Sunday, September 24 at Texas Motor Speedway. USA Network is set to provide live coverage beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET. Begin a free trial of FuboTV today and don’t miss it!