Fewer races, more exposure in Kevin Harvick’s Bud to Busch shift

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CONCORD, N.C. — Anheuser-Busch is rebranding defending Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 Chevrolet with fewer races but more exposure next season.

The car will carry Busch and Busch Light for 12 races in 2016 after a five-season run of Harvick being affiliated with Budweiser, which will maintain a personal-services contract with the driver.

Nick Kelly, Anheuser-Busch’s director of experiential marketing, said the move was driven to spotlight the Busch brand, which has lacked a national platform since ceasing its 23-year title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Xfinity Series after the 2007 season. That will mean more commercials and point-of-sale marketing centered on Harvick.

“The biggest thing is taking Kevin and hopefully putting him on a bigger stage with a beer company,” Kelly said Thursday during a news conference at Charlotte Motors Speedway. “For us to take that next step to really bring him back up to the forefront was huge for us.”

A-B has sponsored Harvick through Budweiser in about 20 races annually since the 2011 season. Kelly said the reduction of eight races would represent a “slight decrease” in its sponsorship of Stewart-Haas Racing, but that its investment would increase on TV commercials and other promotions.

“It was a reallocation,” he said. “We took a lot of financing that was in place to sponsor races and put it behind activation. We had a great platform in place but didn’t have all the resources to activate it. We’re taking that to put it behind activation. You’ll see a lot more of us at retail because we have that funding to push it.”

Kelly said next season is the last in its contract with Harvick and SHR, but talks have started about extending the deal.

The rebranding will begin with the 2016 Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway (a race once known as the Busch Clash) and emphasize Busch’s history in NASCAR. Cale Yarborough drove a Busch-sponsored car in the memorable 1979 Daytona 500, which ended with Yarborough fighting with Bobby and Donnie Allison.

Chelsea Phillips, director of value brands for A-B, said the company would market to NASCAR fans through fishing and hunting activities tied into Harvick.

“I’m really excited when you hear talk about the national platform and listening to the plans that everybody has with Busch and tying them into the properties that they already have with the outdoors things,” Harvick said. “It really fits what I do, who I am and who our fan is. I’m excited to be part of  it.”

Harvick, who advanced to the second round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup with a dramatic victory Sunday at Dover International Speedway, will turn 40 in December, which puts him in the target demographic for Busch consumers. Phillips said the brand’s target audience is 35 and older and tends to be working class.

Kelly said the move to Busch was about engagement over awareness, noting that Budweiser has a 99% awareness rating. Bud will remain in NASCAR through track sponsorships, while Harvick will become a “guy to cheer for those extremely loyal NASCAR fans already enjoying Busch.

“The core audience is the NASCAR audience,” he said. “The die-hard, working-class person. Kevin is amazing with consumers, and he wins. We want the best driver and feel we’ve got it.”

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