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Ganassi hopes McMurray can bring second 2015 title

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One championship in 2015 is not enough for Chip Ganassi. He’s going for two.

Scott Dixon won the IndyCar championship for Ganassi two weeks ago. Now, Jamie McMurray – in his first appearance in NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup – will try to do the same.

McMurray has come close to making the Chase in several past seasons. McMurray left Richmond 11th in the points in 2004 when the top 10 made the Chase. He was 14th when 12 made it in 2010. He’s had other years where he had a chance to make the Chase at Richmond but did not.

“This was a little sweeter to get him punched in there pretty solid,” Ganassi said.

And even though McMurray will start the Chase in a five-way tie for 12th place, Ganassi feels his driver has just as good of a chance as any of the other 15 Chase entrants to go out and win the championship.

“The final four, looks like it might be one team the way I’m looking at it lately,” he said. “I noticed for a while we were running first and second in class, but I think we were fifth and sixth.

“It’s going to be a challenge, but I certainly think we can drill deep into it.  We’ll need a little bit of luck from there.”

Ganassi agrees with McMurray that his team has to step things up, particularly when it comes to getting speed out of its Chevrolets.

“(We’ve) been consistent all year,” Ganassi said. “We had speed at times, not when we needed it most. The components are there to win the race; we have all the same components as some of those guys that can win.

“We just need to make a better mousetrap with what we have to work with.”

It took McMurray 13 seasons to make his first Chase. He joins Paul Menard as first-time Chase contenders this year.

“Jamie has had some big wins, but we haven’t had the consistent speed that you need I think to win at any time,” Ganassi said. “I think we can run well at any track, but I don’t think we’re in a position to win right yet at any track. We have to work on that.

“For Jamie himself, I couldn’t be more pleased. I don’t think there’s anybody in the Chase that is more deserving of being there, that has worked so tirelessly over the years, been under the limelight, has had a couple disappointments along the way at times.”

This will also be the second time Ganassi has reached the Chase as a team owner. Juan Pablo Montoya did so in 2009. Before this season,  co-owner Felix Sabates “guaranteed” that both McMurray and teammate Kyle Larson would make this year’s Chase.

Larson failed to back Sabates’ words.

“I’m not one of these guys that gets disappointed because one guy’s in and one guy’s not,” Ganassi said. “When you can punch somebody into the playoffs, that’s good for the whole team.

“We had an IndyCar championship a few weeks ago. That’s good for the whole team, that’s good for everybody. That just builds upon itself. Success is a snowball type of thing in the sports business. It’s an infectious thing. People gravitate to those kinds of events and those type of people that are successful in those events.”

Don’t forget, play our Chase Grid Challenge game and you could win $16 million!

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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.”