At this point, its fair to say the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings is a two-horse race.
After taking the checkered flag in the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday, Kyle Larson now leads the Cup standings with 640 points. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver holds just a five-point lead over Furniture Row Racing’s Martin Truex Jr., who entered Sunday’s race as the points leader and left Michigan with two stage victories and a sixth-place finish.
It’s refreshing to see teams outside of the sport’s “big three (or four)” setting the standard for the rest of the field. No one doubts Chip Ganassi or Furniture Row, but they certainly don’t get the same attention as teams such as Hendrick Motorsports or Team Penske, whose drivers populate much of the top-10.
But it’s not the weekly duel between the two drivers — who each have two victories this season — that’s interesting. Rather, it’s the growing distance they’re putting between them and the rest of the field in the standings.
Kyle Busch is in third, 130 points behind Larson. He’s followed by Kevin Harvick (-132), Chase Elliott (-162) and Brad Keselowski (-164). The next-closest driver is Jamie McMurray, who’s a whopping 190 points behind Larson.
If you’re wondering how drivers could catch Truex and Larson, here’s the barebones of how NASCAR divvies out points:
So is it possible for drivers to close the gaps between Larson and Truex? Sure, there are 11 races left after all. But don’t put your money on it.
The fact is, both drivers clearly have had the fastest cars all season long. They’re also among the most talented and consistent drivers in the field, as finding flaws in their performances really is a fool’s errand.
Furthermore, with the different ways drivers now can earn points, it’s possible for Truex and Larson to maintain their sizable leads even if they wreck out of a race.
Ultimately, the regular season standings are less important for drivers at the top than it is for those fighting to make their way into the playoffs. Still, watching Larson and Truex as they run away and hide has been fascinating all season.
Thumbnail photo via Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY Sports Images