Toyota waits on Michael Waltrip Racing to reveal its plans

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David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development, said the manufacturer is awaiting word on Michael Waltrip Racing’s future beyond the 2015 season.

MWR, which is mired in a two-year winless drought in the Sprint Cup Series, has been aligned with Toyota since its entry into Cup in 2007.

“Certainly in the near-term, we’re not sure what Michael Waltrip Racing is going to do,” Wilson said Tuesday on SiriusXM Radio’s NASCAR Channel. “They’ve yet to announce their plans. Certainly we have had a rich history in the sport together. We got our butts kicked together in 2007, our first year, and you forge very close and personal relationships when you have those trials together.

“Whatever they decide to do, we certainly wish nothing but the best for them.”

There has been speculation that MWR might be mulling a shift to Chevrolet and a partnership with Chip Ganassi Racing.

Despite MWR’s lack of wins, Wilson hopes to see both Clint Bowyer and David Ragan make this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup. Bowyer is currently 16th on the Chase grid, while Ragan is 24th.

Bowyer has a tenuous hold on the last Chase-eligible spot. Kyle Busch, who missed the first 11 races with injuries, is 23 points from breaking into the top 30 in the standings. If he does so over the final six races of the regular season (a virtually foregone conclusion), Busch would take another slot on the Chase grid, and Bowyer’s provisional berth would depend on a win or climbing much higher in the points.

Bowyer faced a similar situation last season. He was Chase-eligible until the regular-season finale at Richmond International Raceway, where he was ultimately eliminated.

The only way Ragan will make the Chase is by winning before the Chase begins.

With Joe Gibbs Racing likely to qualify all four of its drivers for the Chase, Wilson is hoping Toyota can add more championship cars in the future. He told NASCAR Talk on July 19 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway that Toyota was talking to multiple teams, including Furniture Row Racing, about joining its lineup, and he reiterated that stance Tuesday.

“We are talking to a number of organizations about the future,” Wilson said.

As for Toyota’s flagship team, JGR has seven wins through 20 races this season: four by Busch and one apiece by teammates, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth. It’s an improvement over making just two trips to victory lane in 2014, which Wilson said “was one of our worst years since we came into the sport, into the Sprint Cup Series and certainly one of Joe Gibbs Racing’s worst years.

“But we started that turnaround last summer, literally,” Wilson said. “That was when we got the big wake-up call. We just missed it on this no ride-height rule. Our engines were a little bit off, and we buckled down.

“Really the turnaround started, I trace it to Chicago of last year, almost a full year ago where our performance gradually started getting better. We were able to get the three Joe Gibbs Racing drivers into the Chase. Denny nearly won the championship at Miami, but that was, to be fair, more to do with the format of the Chase.”

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

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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

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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

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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

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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