NASCAR Cup Series points standings viewed heading to Michigan International Speedway

The numbers don’t lie, but memory gets a little fuzzy sometimes.

Remember how Kyle Larson was just crushing the NASCAR Cup Series points ranking competition this time last year? Well, that didn’t happen. The eventual series champion had four wins from 22 races in his 2021 season, but the No. 5 Chevy driver was still a week away from catching Denny Hamlin atop the points standings.

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Now compare that with this season. Like teammate Hendrick Motorsports’ 2021 stat line, Chase Elliott also boasts four wins. But the difference is that Elliott has a stranglehold on the series lead, positioning himself to pick up 15 potentially crucial playoff points to win the regular-season championship.

Elliott, the 2020 Cup Series champion, took the points lead five races into the year and hasn’t given it up while Ryan Blaney, Kyle Busch and Ross Chastain traded second place like kids trading chewing gum cards.

Once summer arrived, Elliott began to drift away as Secretariat at the Belmont thanks to a five-race streak in which he won or placed second. That 16-point lead over Chastain through Sonoma exploded into a triple-digit advantage.

Chase Elliott celebrates winning the NASCAR Cup Series Ally 400. | Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

With his margins of 125 points over Blaney and 129 over Chastain, Elliott is poised to clinch regular season honors heading into the final two races of the regular season at Watkins Glen and Daytona. That would give him license to shoot for wins (and extra playoff points) without fear of affecting his standings status.

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