by Jonathan Fjeld and Dominic Aragon
This Sunday at Watkins Glen, Martin Truex Jr. could become the fourth driver to wrap up the NASCAR Cup Series regular season title early.
Barring a chaotic race or a points penalty, Truex Jr. will likely pick up the title and trophy at the August 26 regular-season finale at Daytona.
With Watkins Glen the only race between now and then, Truex Jr. is 60 points ahead of Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin.
If Truex doesn’t lose any points to Hamlin, he will lock up the regular season title. Most importantly, he’ll lock up 15 bonus points for the playoffs.
The most points a driver can make up on another driver in a single race is 59 points (sans the Coca-Cola 600).
Since NASCAR introduced the current playoff format in 2017, they have honored the points leader at the end of the 26-race regular season.
In 2017, Truex earned the first regular-season championship early, with a 107-point lead after race 25. In the playoffs, he earned his first NASCAR Cup Series championship.
Kyle Busch (2019), Kevin Harvick (2020) and Chase Elliott (2022) also secured the regular-season championship going into the regular-season finale.
In their respective title years, Harvick and Elliott each entered the regular-season finale with a 134-point lead. Meanwhile, Busch entered the 2019 regular-season finale with a 64-point lead.
Only Truex and Busch went on to win the NASCAR Cup Series championship after clinching the regular-season title early.
Regular-season champion Kyle Larson went on to win the Cup Series championship in 2021.
Regular Season Champions (eventual points finish):
2017 – Martin Truex Jr. (1st)
2018 – Kyle Busch (4th
2019 – Kyle Busch (1st)
2020 – Kevin Harvick (5th)
2021 – Kyle Larson (1st)
2022 – Chase Elliott (4th)