Yes, it’s early in the season. Yes, things will change, but with the Sprint Cup series having raced four times this year, change is evident when one examines the points standings compared to this time last year.
Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards and Austin Dillon are among the drivers who have gained the most in the standings since last year, while Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman are among those who have dropped the most.
Here are the drivers who have gained the most in the standings compared to this time last year.
- Kurt Busch … gained 29 spots to fourth
- Carl Edwards … gained 16 spots to fifth
- Austin Dillon … gained 14 spots to eighth
- Ricky Stenhouse Jr. … gained nine spots to 18th
- Denny Hamlin … gained seven spots to sixth.
Kurt Busch was suspended the first three races last year and was 33rd at this time in the points after running one race, thus the big turnaround. His younger brother, Kyle, had yet to race at this point last year after being injured in the season-opening Xfinity race at Daytona International Speedway.
Edwards admitted last year that he pressed in his early races with Joe Gibbs Racing and that impacted his performance. Dillon has been steadier this year, scoring three top-10 finishes — he had five top-10 finishes all of last season. Stenhouse’s Roush Fenway Racing team has shown more speed this year. Hamlin won the Daytona 500 and finished third last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.
While those drivers have had better starts to the season, others have not fared as well.
- Clint Bowyer … lost 19 spots to 34th
- Ryan Newman … lost 17 spots to 25th
- A.J. Allmendinger … lost 15 spots to 20th
- Paul Menard … lost 15 spots to 26th
- Casey Mears … lost 15 spots to 27th
Bowyer is with HScott Motorsports this season before heading to Stewart-Haas Racing to take over Tony Stewart’s ride. Bowyer has not finished better than 22nd and has placed outside the top 30 in three races.
Newman finished last at Phoenix after a melted bead caused a tire failure and sent him into the wall. Allmendinger has not finished better than 14th. Menard finished next-to-last at Phoenix after suffering a similar fate as Newman, his teammate. Mears has not finished better than 14th this season.
And there are others who are off to similar starts as last year.
- Kevin Harvick is the points leader – just as he was last year
- Kyle Larson is 17th – just as he was last year
- Aric Almirola is 13th – one spot better than last year
- Danica Patrick is 24th – one spot worse than last year
- Brad Keselowski is 11th – two spots worse than last year