Updated 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Standings Following Denny Hamlin’s Victory in the Coca-Cola 600

Finally, the pieces of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs are coming together easier than the five-letter words in the Wordle puzzle on your smartphone. Denny Hamlin’s victory on Sunday brought some clarity to a picture that’s been fuzzier than the PBS station on your TV set with the rabbit-ears antenna.

Sure, there are a dozen races remaining in the regular season. But Hamlin guaranteed his playoff berth while clarifying the level of work remaining for some rival drivers.

Denny Hamlin has clinched his NASCAR Cup Series playoff berth

Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Toyota, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 29, 2022. | Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Toyota, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 29, 2022. | Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

His earlier victory at Richmond should have been enough to assure Denny Hamlin of landing in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, but we’ve had 11 winners this season, and Hamlin had the fewest points in the bunch. By winning the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday, the driver of the No. 11 Toyota guaranteed points won’t bump him if we finish the regular season with 17 different winners.

Hamlin is still a modest 17th in points because of three DNFs in his first five races and four overall. But that doesn’t matter now that he has joined William Byron and Ross Chastain as a two-time winner.

Hamlin has won multiple races in a season seven times in the past eight years, bringing him to 48 trips to Victory Lane for his career. He’s never won the season championship and has only finished second once. If his first back-to-back top-10 finishes of the season in points races (he was fourth at Kansas before the All-Star Race) are an indication, he’ll have to be taken seriously when the playoffs start at Darlington on Sept. 4.

Rank Driver Points Race Wins Stage Wins Playoff Pts Top 5 Top 10
1 Chase Elliott 489 1 3 8 3 9
2 Ross Chastain 455 2 3 13 7 8
3 Kyle Busch 452 1 1 6 5 10
4 Ryan Blaney 436 0 4 4 4 6
5 Martin Truex Jr. 430 0 3 3 2 6
6 Joey Logano 423 1 1 6 4 6
7 William Byron 420 2 3 13 4 4
8 Alex Bowman 415 1 1 6 3 9
9 Kyle Larson 412 1 1 6 6 8
10 Christopher Bell 400 0 0 0 4 8
11 Kevin Harvick 373 0 0 0 3 7
12 Tyler Reddick 350 0 2 2 4 6
13 Chase Briscoe 349 1 1 6 3 4
14 Aric Almirola 342 0 0 0 1 4
15 Austin Dillon 328 0 0 0 3 6
16 Erik Jones 321 0 0 0 1 4

Chase Elliott remains in the points lead

Chase Elliott remains atop the NASCAR Cup Series points list despite a premature exit and 33rd place in the Coca-Cola 600. Ryan Blaney also had issues at Charlotte Motor Speedway and has dropped to fourth. So, the top three drivers in points (Elliott, Ross Chastain, and Kyle Busch) all own victories. It’s the way the list should start looking in a typical season, but the first time it has shaped up that way in 2022.

With Denny Hamlin now safely in the playoffs, Austin Cindric (19th place) and Kurt Busch (20th) are the single-race winners with the most to worry about if the regular season ends with more than 16 winners. At best, they’re facing the prospect of missing out on the extra playoff points associated with placing in the top 10 in points.

The secondary race that’s shaping up is among the non-winners. Tyler Reddick (350 points) would be the fifth and final non-winner to get in if the playoffs started next weekend. Aric Almirola (342) remains within easy reach, with Austin Dillon (328) and Erik Jones (321) in the conversation as long as no one below them squeezes out a race win.

Rank Driver Points Race Wins Stage Wins Playoff Pts Top 5 Top 10
17 Denny Hamlin 309 2 2 12 3 3
18 Daniel Suarez 301 0 2 2 2 4
19 Austin Cindric 294 1 0 5 1 2
20 Kurt Busch 289 1 1 6 3 5
21 Chris Buescher 275 0 0 0 0 3
22 Michael McDowell 274 0 0 0 0 5
23 Bubba Wallace 272 0 1 1 1 2
24 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 267 0 0 0 1 5

A missed opportunity for Cole Custer

We wrote ahead of the Coca-Cola 600 that Cole Custer, Harrison Burton, and Corey LaJoie should be looking over their shoulders with respect to prospects for staying in the Cup Series in 2023. Their results at Charlotte Motor Speedway were a mixed bag.

LaJoie was the third driver out, crashing on Lap 60, and has slipped behind Brad Keselowski into 31st place. That’s despite the 100-point penalty that NASCAR assessed the RFK Racing No. 6 Ford.

Custer was having a solid night and looked to be heading for a top-five finish until being collected in the crash in the first overtime and coming in 21st.

Burton produced the best result of his rookie season with Wood Brothers, placing 11th over 600 demanding miles. His previous best was 14th at Darlington, another track that’s draining on drivers. It’s an encouraging sign that he might establish some credentials by the end of the year.

Rank Driver Points Race Wins Stage Wins Playoff Pts Top 5 Top 10
25 Justin Haley 255 0 0 0 1 1
26 Ty Dillon 246 0 0 0 0 1
27 Cole Custer 235 0 0 0 0 0
28 Harrison Burton 211 0 0 0 0 0
29 Todd Gilliland 206 0 0 0 0 0
30 Brad Keselowski 183 0 0 -10 0 1
31 Corey LaJoie 181 0 0 0 1 1
32 Cody Ware 131 0 0 0 0 0
33 BJ McLeod 97 0 0 0 0 0

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