NASCAR Nostradamus: Looking ahead to 2nd round of Chase

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NASCAR Talk’s Nate Ryan and Dustin Long discuss some of the key issues heading into Saturday’s Bank of America 500, which begins the second round of the Chase.

Should NASCAR ban post-race burnouts in light of some drivers suggesting that it can prevent NASCAR from checking particular areas of the car that are damaged?

NATE: It’s tempting to say yes, because it seems fair and logical to keep postrace inspection uniform for all competitors. And considering that celebratory burnouts were nonexistent for the first five decades of NASCAR, why not restore a modicum of civility without sacrificing emotion (any charges of being understated can be rectified with a raucous party in victory lane)?

But NASCAR should be careful about instituting rules that can be viewed as tantamount to legislating or restricting driver behavior. Fines for speaking out of turn haven’t been well-received, and sanctioning enthusiasm after a win stands even less of a chance of strong justification.

Stock-car history has a history of thriving on unbridled emotion and juicy controversies. Burnouts are at the nexus of both and thus shouldn’t be restrained.

DUSTIN: No. It’s the same for everyone. Win a race, wreck your car if you so choose. Call it the benefit of winning. If NASCAR has reason to suspect there is something suspicious with a winning car but can’t prove it because the car is too damaged, the solution is simple – require that car to go through inspection after the next several races. Do you really think if a team finds something that gets them a victory they’re not going to do it again?

The second round ends with Talladega Superspeedway. Should that race be an elimination race?

NATE: Given its tendency to produce arbitrary outcomes and results, the track probably shouldn’t be in the playoffs. But the objective of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, particularly with its 2014 revamping, isn’t promoting fairness, it’s producing drama. If Talladega is deemed worthy of being in the final 10, then it absolutely should occupy an elimination slot. It’s as nerve wracking and stomach churning as any track, and that’s why it’s an agonizingly perfect fit for unjustly determining drivers’ second-round fates.

DUSTIN: I’m fine with it. As long as it continues to be in the Chase, this race will play a significant role in who advances and who doesn’t based on its random luck factor. That it is the final race in the second round only raises the intensity and uncertainty.

Who is a Chase driver to watch in this round. 

NATE: Jeff Gordon. After escaping the first round, he is in better shape than many realize. His team’s performance at 1.5-mile tracks such as Charlotte Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway has been trending in the right direction, and the No. 24 Chevrolet has been fast in every restrictor-plate race this season. Talladega actually could be considered a bit of a firewall for the four-time series champion, who had the strongest car there in May but was burned by a pit speeding penalty.

DUSTIN: Kyle Busch. Kansas Speedway has tormented him at times, but he finished third there in this race last year. I want to see what he can do at Charlotte and Kansas and how that sets him up for Talladega – a race that eliminated him last year. After his spectacular summer, can he be as good now and advance to the third round?

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