Photo credit: Nigel Kinrade Photography

Iowa race boosts Chase Elliott to Cup points lead

For the first time since the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season, Chase Elliott is in a position to potentially win the regular-season championship and lock up 15 additional playoff points.

Elliott has taken the top spot in the Cup standings after finishing third at Iowa Speedway behind race-winner Ryan Blaney and runner-up William Byron. Elliott is now eight points ahead of Kyle Larson, who finished 34th after sustaining damage in a crash.

Denny Hamlin is third in the Cup standings and 38 points behind Elliott. Byron is 54 points behind Elliott, and Martin Truex Jr. is 61 points behind.

MORE: Cup point standings after Iowa

Nine races remain in the regular season. The regular-season champion locks up 15 additional playoff points. The other drivers that end the regular season in the top 10 receive a decreasing number of playoff points.

Second place gets 10, third place gets eight, fourth place gets seven, sixth place gets five, seventh place gets four, eighth place gets three, ninth place gets two, and 10th place gets one.

Elliott has only one Cup victory this season -- the lone trip to Texas Motor Speedway. This was a crucial win as it put him back in the playoffs, but it is not the sole reason why the 2020 Cup champ is the points leader after 17 races.

Elliott's spot atop the standings is due to his outright consistency. His worst finish this season is 19th at Phoenix Raceway, and he has seven top-five finishes and nine top-10s. He is the only driver to finish top 20 in every single event.

"I mean, I definitely think we have been closer than we have been," Elliott said after the Iowa race. "That is good and nice to have some consistency across some different styles of racetracks, so happy with all that.

"We need just a little bit to be where we need to be to lead laps and kind of set the pace. We will keep working at it."

For comparison, Larson has three wins but he has three finishes outside the top 30. Hamlin also has three wins and three finishes of 30th or worse.

Elliott's average finish of 9.1 is the best in the Cup Series. Byron and Ross Chastain are in a tie for second with an average finish of 12.5.

One spot where Elliott is lacking compared to some of his peers is his number of playoff points. He has six -- five from winning at Texas and one from winning a stage.

Gateway winner Austin Cindric and Iowa winner Ryan Blaney each have seven playoff points. Talladega winner Tyler Reddick has eight.

Byron, Hamlin, and Larson have the most playoff points. Byron has 16 -- 15 from race wins and one from a stage win. Hamlin has 18 -- 15 from race wins and three from stage wins.

Larson leads the group with 23 playoff points -- 15 from race wins and eight from stage wins.