Kenseth dominates at Richmond; Chase field set

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Matt Kenseth dominated, leading 352 of 400 laps, to win Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway, as NASCAR ends the 26-race regular season and prepares for the start of the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff.

It was Kenseth’s third win in the last six races and his fourth of the season, putting him in a tie for the lead in the standings with Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch after the points were reset for the Chase after Saturday’s race.

Kyle Busch finished second, followed by pole-sitter Joey Logano, Aric Almirola and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Sixth through 10th were Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer.

MORE: Results, Stats for Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond

There were no surprises in the 16-driver lineup for the Chase, as all of those who came into Richmond on the preliminary Chase grid successfully made it after the race ended.

Almirola and Kasey Kahne came into the race with the closest chance of potentially overtaking Clint Bowyer for the 16th and final spot for the Chase. Both tried hard, particularly Almirola, but fell short of making the Chase and Bowyer held on to earn the final Chase spot.

Chase seedings: Here’s how the Chase field looks:
* First place (three-way tie): Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth 2,012 points each).
* Fourth: Joey Logano (2,009 points).
* Fifth (four-way tie): Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards (2,006 points each).
* Ninth (three-way tie): Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin (2,003 points each).
* 12th (five-way tie): Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer (2,000 points each).

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How Kenseth won: Kenseth had the best car of the field, without question. To dominate the way he did, and how he capitalized on restarts, Kenseth made it very clear that he wanted to go into the Chase with momentum – and did just that.

Who else had a good race: Despite failing to finish in the top 10 in the race, Jamie McMurray (finished 13th) and Paul Menard (26th) both made the Chase for first time in their careers. … Almirola ran an exceptional race and “drove my heart out,” but came up 17 points short of making the Chase. … Even though he remains winless in 2015, it’s a whole new season for Jeff Gordon in the Chase. … Coming into the race on the Chase bubble, Clint Bowyer was not to be denied from making the playoffs, finishing 10th.

Who had a bad race: Tony Stewart’s hopes of winning and making the Chase fell far short, as he finished 29th. This makes the third consecutive season Stewart has failed to qualify for the Chase. … Martin Truex Jr. is in the Chase, but his 32nd place finish (6 laps off the lead lap) was not the showing he was hoping for. … In one of the oddest scenes since Juan Pablo Montoya hit a track dryer in the 2012 Daytona 500, Michael McDowell suffered extensive damage to the right side and rear of his car after hitting the back of a safety truck under caution on Lap 293 that had been sent out to pick up prior debris on the racetrack. McDowell, crew chief Kevin Walter and spotter were ordered to the NASCAR hauler after the race.

Notable: In his first race driving with a torn ACL in his right knee, Denny Hamlin ignored any pain he might have been in to finish sixth. … A total of 20 drivers came into the race with a chance of making the Chase. … Toyota had four drivers finish in the top 10, while Ford and Chevrolet each had three top 10 finishers each.

How teams fared overall to make the Chase: Joe Gibbs Racing placed all four of its drivers into the Chase (Kenseth, Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards). Hendrick Motorsports placed three of its four Sprint Cup drivers (Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr.). Richard Childress Racing (Ryan Newman and Paul Menard), Team Penske (Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski) and Stewart-Haas Racing (defending series champ Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch) placed two drivers each. And placing one driver each into the Chase were Furniture Row Racing (Martin Truex Jr.), Chip Ganassi Racing (Jamie McMurray) and Michael Waltrip Racing (Clint Bowyer). As for manufacturers, Chevrolet has nine Chase entries, Toyota has five and Ford has two.

Quote of the day: “Disappointed, for sure. I drove my heart out tonight, all year long, really. I feel like we’ve certainly overachieved this year. Our cars just haven’t the speed, but we’ve managed a way to get good results. I’m really proud of this team. … To come up short, it hurts. It just wasn’t meant to be.” – Aric Almirola, who finished fourth, but fell short of making the Chase for a second consecutive season.

What’s next: The Chase for the Sprint Cup begins next Sunday, Sept. 20, with the MyAFibRisk.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

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

 

 

Kurt Busch win capped off big racing weekend for family

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After hopping from the door of his No. 1 Chevrolet Sunday night, Kurt Busch let out a primal scream.

The source of his emotion?

“20 years of agony and defeat” at the his home track, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, had been replaced by “triumph.”

After the fortunate timing of a caution and pit strategy Sunday night, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver led the final 26 laps and visited LVMS’ Victory Lane for the first time, a day after his brother Kyle Busch experienced a special win.

There was plenty more for the 42-year-old driver to celebrate. He’d entered the Round of 12 as the last driver in the playoff standings. But with his first win in 46 races, Busch became the first driver to plant in his flag in the Round of 8.

But the Las Vegas native’s focus was on the 1.5-mile track, which he’d seen evolve from a “desert gravel pit” into the site of two NASCAR race weekends each year.

“This feeling of growing up here and watching the track get built … when Speedway Motorsports came in and bought it, I’m like, ‘Man, there’s going to be a Cup race there, I hope I can make my way up through Legend cars (and race there). And just all the memories, all the memories of everybody, my mom and dad, every Saturday night, all the commitment they gave me and my little brother (Kyle Busch) to make it in racing.

“For me it was a hobby. I never knew I’d get this far. A guy named Craig Keough here locally in Las Vegas, the owner of the Star Nurseries here in Las Vegas, took a chance on me and let me run his late model a few times and we won a couple races and started working our way up.”

Busch made his first NASCAR start on the Las Vegas oval in 2001 driving for Roush Fenway Racing. Between then and Sunday, he won 31 Cup races, the 2004 championship and the 2017 Daytona 500.

But his home track eluded him until his 21st year competing on the sport’s top circuit.

Busch said Sunday’s win is “right there underneath” his Daytona win and the championship.

“Any time you win, it’s special,” Busch said. “But to do it in front of my hometown crowd and nobody was there (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) and all the people that I see every time I come to Vegas and I get to say thank you and I can’t right now, that’s the hardest part. So this one is easily ramping up to being my third most favorite win ever.

“Right now it’s my favorite because it’s here, it’s Vegas, and I have so many people to thank. They know they helped me, and they know who they are, and it just all started with mom and dad taking me to the racetrack right here at the Bullring in Las Vegas.”

The Busch family got to celebrate more than one win over the weekend.

The night before Kurt’s Vegas breakthrough, a third generation racer got his first taste of victory.

Kyle and Samantha Busch’s son, Brexton, won his first karting race and celebrated with his parents in Victory Lane.

“It’s so much fun to watch him and just to see his excitement and how much he enjoys going to the race track and being with is friends,” Kyle Busch said after his sixth-place finish Sunday. “It’s three generations worth, I guess. My dad (Tom) did it, myself and Kurt and now him. It’s pretty fun to just be out there. My dad is kind of the truck driver, the team manager, the crew chief, the lead mechanic and all that stuff on his kart.

“He’s got a big task at hand in order to get it all ready to go and get us to the race track every week. It’s been fun to see (Brexton) and to see how excited he was when he was able to win and beat the other competition that was out there and to see his joy. I told him, ‘Whatever that feeling is, whatever you’re feeling, however that sits in you, that’s feasible, that’s possible a lot more often than just one time. So don’t rest on just getting one, we gotta go out there and fight for more.'”

Kurt Busch wasn’t there for his nephew’s win, but he got all the details from his sister-in-law as they flew to Las Vegas.

“It definitely felt like a generational shift was happening,” he said. “But maybe not. Maybe not. This old guy has still got it going on.”