Dale Earnhardt Jr. challenges for win before finishing third at Atlanta

2 Comments

For a second consecutive week, another pivotal restart didn’t go Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s way.

Earnhardt took his best shot at Jimmie Johnson on a restart with 14 laps to go Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway but couldn’t stay with the eventual race winner. Kevin Harvick claimed second in the closing laps, pushing Earnhardt to third.

That’s the same position he finished in last week’s Daytona 500, where he was left second-guessing a decision to move up the track on a restart with 19 laps left. He dropped from third to 20th, recovering to finish third.

Earnhardt was more optimistic after Atlanta than he was after Daytona.

“We started out Thursday and we weren’t really happy,” he said. “We were kind of frustrated with this car on the balance. But every day, the car got better. [Crew chief] Greg [Ives], [lead engineer] Kevin [Meendering], and the engineers really worked hard to study and improve, and we did.

“We had a great car today, just not good enough to beat Jimmie. I got on the outside of him there on that last restart, but I knew down in Turns 3 and 4 that I didn’t have the preferred line. He’s pretty quick around the bottom and we ran over something on the race track. It knocked the grille out of it and hurt the aerodynamics there with a few laps to go.

“I think we could’ve raced Kevin a little bit, but it was pretty much over with when that happened. I’m real fortunate we didn’t have another caution because I don’t think we would’ve done well with that grille knocked out.”

Despite missing out again on his first win of the year, Earnhardt and Ives have still started their new partnership strong. Earnhardt complimented Ives afterward, saying their communication was natural.

“He’s a pretty decent cheerleader, too, for myself and the team,” said Earnhardt, who had to calm the crew chief after Ives called Earnhardt out of his pit stall by shouting on the radio. “He’s going to be something else for a while around that garage. I’m glad to be able to work with him there.”

NASCAR Power Rankings: Kevin Harvick still No. 1 after quiet Vegas

Leave a comment

Kevin Harvick didn’t have a flashy night Sunday in Las Vegas, but it didn’t keep him from retaining the No. 1 spot in this week’s NASCAR Power Rankings.

After winning the Bristol night race, Harvick finished in the top 10 in the first two stages in Vegas before placing 10th at race’s end.

Kurt Busch’s win at his home track vaulted him into the top 10 as 12 drivers received votes.

More: Playoff standings after Las Vegas

Here is this week’s NASCAR Power Rankings:

1. Kevin Harvick (Last week No. 1): In the last eight races he’s won three times and finished outside the top 10 only twice.

2. Martin Truex Jr. (Last week No. 5): Placed fourth for his 11th top-five finish in the last 14 races.

3. Alex Bowman (Last week unranked): Finished fifth for his second top five and fifth top-10 finish in the last six races.

4. Denny Hamlin (Last week unranked): Left Vegas with a third-place finish to snap a three-race streak of finishing outside the top 10.

5. Kurt Busch (Last week unranked): Snapped a 46-race winless streak with his victory and advanced to the Round of 8.

6. Kyle Busch (Last week No. 3): Finished sixth after a “dismal” night. He has four consecutive top 10s.

7. Brad Keselowski (Last week No. 5): Finished 13th to give him two finishes outside the top 10 since he won at Richmond.

8. Chase Briscoe (Last week unranked): Opened the Xfinity playoffs with his second consecutive win.

8. Chase Elliott (Last week No. 2): Led 73 laps, but had to settle for a 22nd-place finish in Vegas.

8. Joey Logano (Last week No. 3): Finished 14th for his second straight finish outside the top 10.

Also receiving votes: Erik Jones and Chris Buescher.

NASCAR announces changes to Kansas playoff weekend

Leave a comment

Citing “programming changes,” NASCAR announced shifts in the race dates and start times for its visit next month to Kansas Speedway.

The Xfinity, ARCA and Truck Series races have been shifted, while the Cup race remains at 2:30 p.m. ET Sunday, Oct. 18.

The biggest move is the Truck Series race shifting from Friday night to Saturday afternoon.

Here are the changes.

Friday, Oct. 16, 8:30 p.m. ETARCA Menards Series on FS1 or FS2; network TBD at a later date (previously at 10 p.m. ET)

Saturday, Oct. 17, 4 p.m. ETTruck Series on FOX (previously Friday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. ET on FS1)

Saturday, Oct. 17, 7 p.m. ET Xfinity on NBCSN (previously 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

 

Xfinity Series playoff standings after Las Vegas

Leave a comment

Chase Briscoe opened the Xfinity Series playoffs by earning his second consecutive win.

His victory Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway gives him 57 playoff points and an automatic spot in the Round of 8.

Harrison Burton holds the final transfer spot. He has a two-point advantage over Ross Chastain.

Behind Chastain below the cutline are Michael Annett (-10 points), Riley Herbst (-14) and Brandon Brown (-20).

Below is the full Xfinity Series playoff standings going into Saturday’s race at Talladega (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Drivers in red are below the cutline to advance. Drivers in yellow are in the remaining playoff spots.

Xfinity Series playoff standings

Cup playoff standings after Las Vegas

Leave a comment

Kurt Busch flipped the script on the Cup playoff standings with his win Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

He entered the Round of 12 as the last driver in the playoff standings, but is the first driver to clinch a spot in the Round of 8.

Replacing Busch in the bottom spot of the playoff standings is Austin Dillon. He is 32 points behind Alex Bowman, who holds the final cutoff spot.

Behind Bowman is Kyle Busch (-9 points), Clint Bowyer (-20), Aric Almirola (-27) and Dillon.

“Obviously, the 1 car (Kurt Busch) was not a car that we needed to win a race,” Clint Bowyer said after Sunday’s race. “It’s been a hell of a battle back there with cars that are kind of in the same wheelhouse as far as points-wise. (Kurt Busch) winning changes that landscape quite a bit, but we’re only 20 points out.”

Here is the full playoff standings entering Sunday’s playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Drivers in red are below the cutline to advance to the Round of 8. Drivers in yellow hold the remaining available playoff spots.

Cup playoff standings