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Blown engine, race win at Sonoma mix up Cup Series standings

The Cup Series race at Sonoma has mixed up the standings heading into the heart of the summer.

Denny Hamlin held the top spot on the leaderboard before Sunday's race. He was 21 points ahead of Kyle Larson and 27 points ahead of Chase Elliott. Hamlin had been one of the most consistent drivers in the series with five consecutive top-five finishes, which included a win at Dover.

MORE: Cup driver points

The situation changed early in the road course race in Northern California. Hamlin's No. 11 Toyota Camry blew an engine at the start of Lap 3. This knocked him out of the race and led to his first DNF since Talladega in April.

Hamlin left Sonoma with only one point. He is now third in the Cup standings and 26 points behind Larson.

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Larson, for comparison, won Sunday's race. He tied Hamlin with three wins this season. Larson also scored eight stage points. He took over the Cup standings, a position he held for several weeks before missing the Coca-Cola 600 to compete in the rain-delayed Indy 500.

Elliott moved into second place in the Cup standings after a strong day. He scored seven points in the opening stage and then crossed the finish line fourth overall. This was Elliott's fourth top-10 finish in the last six races. He is now 14 points behind Larson with 10 races remaining in the regular season.

Elliott won the regular-season championship in 2022, which secured 15 bonus points for the start of the playoffs. Larson won the regular-season championship in 2021 en route to the championship.

Both drivers reached the Championship 4 after winning the regular-season championship. Elliott, in particular, needed his bonus playoff points to overcome a crash at Darlington to open the playoffs and a fire at Texas to open the Round of 12.

The Sonoma race also had an impact on the playoff bubble. Chris Buescher, who finished fourth, moved to 13th in the standings. He is 24 points ahead of Bubba Wallace, who fell one spot after finishing 20th.

Kyle Busch fell from fifth to 12th on the final lap at Sonoma after Ross Chastain spun him. He still moved up two spots in the Cup standings. Busch is below the cutline, but he is only eight points behind Wallace with 10 races remaining in the regular season.

The biggest mover of the day was Michael McDowell, who jumped from 24th in the Cup standings to 20th after a second-place finish at Sonoma. McDowell is still essentially in a must-win situation as he is 93 points behind Wallace.