Lessons from last year could help Harvick

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Crew chief Rodney Childers said it last year. With NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint format featuring 16 drivers and eliminations, it will be difficult for a reigning champion to repeat because one thing could keep them from advancing.

Childers and Kevin Harvick face such a scenario after the first race in the Chase. A door slam with Jimmie Johnson off a restart eventually caused Harvick’s left rear tire to blow and sent him into the wall on the way to a 42nd-place finish at Chicagoland Speedway.

Harvick was the only Chase driver not to finish in the top 20 Sunday. Unless chaos ensues this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (on NBCSN) or the following week at Dover International Speedway (on NBCSN), Harvick likely will have to win either of those races to advance to the second round.

“This Chase the way it is, it can be taken away from you in a week, it doesn’t matter if it’s the first week or last week,’’ Childers said after Sunday’s race. “It’s one of them deals where that same thing could have happened at Homestead last year and (we) finished fourth in the points. It’s just the way it is. I said this at the end of last year, it’s going to be really hard to have a repeat champion throughout the years. You’re not going to have someone like what Jimmie did over and over and over. The odds are against you with this system.’’

While the odds might be against Harvick advancing, they’re not as bad as they would be for some others.

Harvick, who has one win at New Hampshire, has placed third in the last two races there, leading a combined 163 laps.

Harvick is winless at Dover, but he finished second to Jimmie Johnson in May. Harvick led 91 laps in that race. He led 223 laps there last September but finished 13th after suffering a flat left front tire with about 150 laps to go when the valve stem was knocked out of the tire’s inner liner by an errant lug nut during a pit stop.

A must-win situation isn’t new to Harvick. He was outside the top four in points during last year’s Chase heading into Phoenix – which set the final four for Homestead – and won to advance. He won the season finale at Homestead to claim the championship.

“We learned a lot last year,’’ Childers said. “We go every week to try to win.’’

That’s what they’ll likely have to do either of the next two weeks if Harvick wants to keep his title hopes alive.

Nate Ryan contributed to this report.

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