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NASCAR standings after three races significantly different than last season

Kyle Larson leading the Cup standings is something NASCAR fans have grown accustomed to since 2021, yet the reigning Las Vegas winner was well outside the top 10 in points after the first three races last season.

Larson is one Cup driver who has thrived early this season. Other drivers crashed in each of the first two races — both on superspeedways for the first time — which dropped them much lower in the Cup standings than they were one year ago.

NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 - Practice
NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 - Practice

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The first three races last season were the Daytona 500, the final race at Fontana and Las Vegas. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won at Daytona, Kyle Busch won at Fontana and William Byron won at Las Vegas.

Ross Chastain was winless after the first three races last season, but he led the points after finishing ninth, third and 12th in the first three races. He was ahead of Alex Bowman, Kevin Harvick, Daniel Suarez, and Martin Truex Jr.

This season's first three races were the Daytona 500, Atlanta and Las Vegas. Byron won at Daytona, Suarez won at Atlanta and Larson won at Las Vegas.

2023Points.png
2023Points.png

This season, Larson leads the points after finishing 11th at Daytona winning at Las Vegas, and winning two stages. He is ahead of Ryan Blaney, Truex, Byron and Chastain.

Chase Elliott is also inside the top 10 in points after starting all three races this season. He was in the No. 9 Chevrolet for the first two races last season but Las Vegas was the first race he missed after sustaining a leg injury in a snowboarding accident.

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2024Points.png

Biggest changes

There are multiple drivers sitting in significantly different situations this season than last.

Tyler Reddick is a fitting example. Last season, he was 34th in points after the first three races. He finished 39th at Daytona and 34th at Fontana before finishing 15th at Las Vegas. Reddick scored no stage points in this stretch of races.

Reddick finished 29th and 30th to start this season before finishing second at Las Vegas. He is 12th in the Cup standings after three races, largely due to his 24 stage points.

Last season, rookie Ty Gibbs was only 20th in the Cup standings with 53 points. He had started the year by finishing 25th, 16th and 22nd in the first three races. This season, Gibbs's worst finish is 17th at Daytona. He finished 10th and fifth in the other two races. He is ninth in the Cup standings with 87 points.

AUTO: MAR 02 NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube
AUTO: MAR 02 NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube

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A large trash bag covered the front of William Byron’s car and had a surprise in it.

Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Christopher Bell were all top 12 in points after the first three races. Bell was seventh, Logano was eighth and Keselowski was 11th.

This season, Keselowski is 28th in points after finishing 33rd in the first two races. Logano is 24th in points after finishing 32nd and 28th in the first two races. Bell is 21st in points after finishing 34th and 33rd at Atlanta and Las Vegas.

Smallest changes

This season's schedule certainly led to some shakeup in the Cup standings. It also showed that some drivers are adept at stockpiling stage points before delivering consistent finishes.

Busch is a fitting example. He was eighth in points after the first three races last season due to a late crash at Daytona, a win at Fontana and a 14th-place finish at Las Vegas.

This season, Busch is sixth in points after a 12th-place finish at Daytona, a third-place finish at Atlanta and a 26th-place finish at Las Vegas. He has 25 stage points this season but he only had 11 stage points after the first three races last season.

Similarly, Truex is once again putting himself in position to contend for the regular-season championship, which he won last season. He is third in points after the first three races this season and he was fifth in points after the first three races last season.

Truex has 27 stage points this season. He had 21 stage points after the first three races last season.