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NBA great Jerry West gets his NASCAR vibe on

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JOLIET, Ill. – He may be 77 years old now, but NBA Hall of Famer Jerry West still looks like he could pop in a 20-footer or drive the lane for two.

But instead of the Staples Center or United Center, West found himself on Friday in the middle of NASCAR land at Chicagoland Speedway.

West and fellow sports legend, tennis great Billie Jean King, will serve as co-grand marshals for Sunday’s MyAFibRisk.om 400, the opening race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

West and King both know about AFib, short for atrial fibrillation, an irregular and often rapid heartbeat that can lead to strokes, heart attacks and even deaths.

“I lost three friends just in the last year to strokes,” West said.

As for his own battle with AFib, he added, “I’m sure I had it when I was an athlete. Doctors would always say I had an extra beat in my heart and I had real low blood pressure.

“I was a Type A personality, and particularly when I got into my (playing) career and there’s so much pressure on you every night, and my desire to excel and win and that’s what drove me.

“They had me doing crazy things. I was hyperventilating, they had me breathing in a paper bag, so I knew something wasn’t normal.

“It didn’t really manifest itself until I became an (NBA team) executive. There’s so much more pressure there because we had a lot of success in Los Angeles, and the expectations of people – there’s a lot of pressure on people to produce and win there.

“Los Angeles, I think because of my desire to win and the Lakers’ success, you put so much pressure on yourself, you just get out of kilter, you feel horrible. I had to be hospitalized twice, I was just exhausted. And at the end of the day, I found out why I was exhausted: your heart never shuts off.”

West grew up in West Virginia during the moonshine era that preceded NASCAR, but this weekend will be his closest exposure to the sport.

“They’re fascinating athletes with the reflexes these guys have, driving at their speeds and so close together,” he said of NASCAR drivers. “If all athletes had those kind of reflexes – and some of them do – but the risk for these people out there, going those speeds, is enormous.

“And to me, I’m amazed that there’s not more accidents than they have, but they’re remarkable athletes.”

West will get real up-close with the track and drivers on Saturday when he takes some hot laps in the pace car.

“I’m hopeful that the person driving is a real good driver,” West quipped.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

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