Three days after winning Saturday’s race at Kentucky, Martin Truex Jr. has the points lead.
NASCAR penalized Kyle Larson 35 points on Wednesday and suspended his crew chief Chad Johnston for three races after the team’s car failed post-race inspection for an improper rear brake cooling assembly.
Larson, who finished second to Truex, kept his points lead by a single point after the race. But he’s now 34 points behind Truex, who got his third win of the season on Saturday.
The points lead at the end of NASCAR’s regular season is much more important than it used to be. NASCAR is awarding the regular season points leader 15 bonus points in the playoffs. The second-place finisher gets 10.
Assuming Larson finishes the season second to Truex because of the penalty — he has a 66-point lead over third-place Kyle Busch — the Kentucky infraction could serve as an effective five-point postseason penalty.
There are eight races until the playoffs begin.
Chip Ganassi Racing said it would not appeal Larson’s penalty. That means Johnston will be suspended for Sunday’s race at New Hampshire, Indianapolis and Pocono. He’ll be eligible to return as Larson’s crew chief at Watkins Glen.
Johnston was also fined $75,000.
Larson started Saturday night’s race at the back of the pack as his car didn’t pass pre-qualifying inspection in time to make a lap. He has two wins, eight top-five and 11 top-10 finishes through the first 18 races of 2017.
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