NASCAR: Former points leader could miss the playoffs entirely

Kyle Busch is one of seven drivers who have spent time atop the NASCAR Cup Series point standings in 2024. While the other six are safe, Busch could miss the playoffs entirely.
Kyle Busch, Richard Childress Racing, NASCAR
Kyle Busch, Richard Childress Racing, NASCAR / Sean Gardner/GettyImages

Seven drivers have sat atop the NASCAR Cup Series point standings at some point through the first half of the 36-race 2024 season, including the drivers who currently occupy the top four spots. Six of the seven leaders are still inside the top eight.

Hendrick Motorsports teammates Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson are tied for the points lead ahead of Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr., both of whom have also led the standings this year, in third and fourth place, respectively. Hendrick Motorsports' William Byron sits in seventh and Team Penske's Ryan Blaney sits in eighth.

Five of those six drivers have locked into the playoffs with wins, with the only exception being Truex. Truex is the top non-winner in the point standings.

But the other one of this season's seven points leaders, who happens to be the only two-time Cup Series champion of the group, finds himself three full positions and 45 points below the playoff cut line with eight races remaining on the 26-race regular season.

Kyle Busch in jeopardy?

Richard Childress Racing's Kyle Busch led the standings after his third place finish in the season's second race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but beyond that, things have gone poorly for the driver of the No. 8 Chevrolet. He has recorded just one top five finish and three other top 10 finishes since.

In the six most recent races, Busch has three 35th place DNFs, another 27th place finish, and top finishes of 15th and 12th.

Things seem to have picked up for him in 2024 where they left off in 2023. After winning three races in the first half of his first season with Richard Childress's team a year ago, Busch struggled down the stretch and finished in 14th place in the standings, his worst result since his rookie season in 2005.

Busch is on pace for career-lows in wins, top five finishes, top 10 finishes, and laps led, and his average finish of 18.9 is his worst since his rookie season nearly two decades ago.

If he cannot turn things around, a record Cup Series streak and another series-best active streak could both come to a screeching halt this year.

Busch broke the all-time record with a win in his 19th consecutive season last year, breaking seven-time champion Richard Petty's 18-year mark, which was set from 1960 to 1977. With Kevin Harvick having retired at the end of the 2023 season, Busch is also the active leader with 11 consecutive playoff berths.

Both streaks are in serious jeopardy in 2024, and while teammate Austin Dillon may not be the best benchmark, the fact that he sits in 32nd place in the point standings out of 34 full-time drivers with only two top 10 finishes goes to show that things are not exactly looking up for Richard Childress Racing as a whole.

Dillon sits two spots behind Rick Ware Racing's only full-time driver, Justin Haley, and Haley is driving a car that had just one top 10 finish from 2017 to 2023.

NASCAR legend's death rumor spreads, then proven untrue. NASCAR legend's death rumor spreads, then proven untrue. dark. Next

The second half of the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season is scheduled to get underway this Sunday, June 30 with the Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway. Live coverage is set to be provided by NBC beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET. Start a free trial of FuboTV now and don't miss it!