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Jayski.com: Stage racing's impact on the points standings

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

The introduction of stage points is creating large intervals in the points standings. The most points a driver could earn in a Cup race in 2016 was 45: 40 points for first, three bonus points for winning the race and then a bonus point for leading a lap and a bonus point for leading the most laps.

In 2017, a driver can earn up to 60 points if he wins the first two stages of the race and then the race itself. And that's not counting bonus points; a driver can get seven bonus points (one for each stage and five for a win) for the playoffs; up from three a year ago.

Those extra points for stages are being hogged by the same drivers too. While 23 drivers have scored stage points in 2017, eight drivers have finished in the top 10 in at least nine of the 14 stages that have awarded points so far.

After race No. 7 in 2016, Kyle Busch had 259 points. 10th-place Austin Dillon was 61 points back and Ryan Blaney was 115 points behind Busch in 20th. This year, points leader Kyle Larson has 315 points. Kevin Harvick, the driver in 10th, is 117 points behind Larson; a gap larger than the one Blaney was facing a year ago. And only four drivers are within 61 points like Dillon was at this point a year ago.

-- Yahoo Sports --