Brad Keselowski leads opening Sprint Cup practice at Kansas

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Brad Keselowski paced the first practice Friday at Kansas Speedway, turning a 194.349-mph lap in his No. 2 Ford.

Austin Dillon was second (194.224) in his No. 3 Chevrolet, and Matt Kenseth’s No. 20 Toyota ranked third at 194.147. Kenseth, who is trying to rebound from a 42nd last week at Charlotte Motor Speedway, made 27 laps during the session, which was second only to Landon Cassill (28).

Defending race winner Joey Logano, who opened the second round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup with a win Sunday at Charlotte, was 18th on the speed chart. Kevin Harvick, who was second at Charlotte, ranked 27th, nearly 3 mph off Keselowski’s speed. NBCSN’s Marty Snider reported that Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing team was exploring whether it was related to a lack of horsepower.

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Hope fuels Cup drivers facing playoff elimination at Kansas

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KANSAS CITY, Kansas — Brad Keselowski doesn’t wax poetic about his position heading into Sunday’s elimination race at Kansas Speedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

“Ain’t good,” he said.

Even so, Keselowski and the other three drivers in danger of being eliminated — Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman — have hope that they can advance in the playoffs with a victory.

“I’m going into the race to try to win it,” said Keselowski, the 2012 champion. “It’s the only way I can guarantee what happens … is to win.

“Just going to lay it all out there.”

Keselowski enters the race 18 points behind Martin Truex Jr. for the eighth and final transfer spot to the next round. Blaney is 22 points behind, Larson is 36 points behind (after his team lost two appeals of its Talladega penalty Friday) and Bowman is 68 points back.

Although Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Truex have combined to win the last five races at Kansas, the four drivers outside a playoff spot feel this is as good a track for them to win.

We have to most likely win the race from where we are in points with how much we have to make up and with the drivers that are ahead of us (Clint Bowyer and Truex),” said Blaney, who led 54 laps in May at this track before contact with Kyle Larson ended his race early. 

“This is a good track for us. I can’t think of another track to try to go to and try to win at. We’ve had a shot here multiple times, especially the first race this year here before I wrecked ourselves. It is a good place for us. Hopefully, we can have a shot at it come Sunday and try to move on.”

Larson also has been strong at this track. He led a race-high 101 laps and finished fourth in the May race after starting at the rear for a tire change before the event.

Larson knows he’ll need to be as strong again today but his challenge will be greater. He’ll start from the rear in a backup car after hitting the wall in practice Friday.

“Looking at the run we had earlier this year and runs we have had in the past, I’m excited that Kansas is a place where you have to go and get a win,” Larson said. “If Talladega was the cutoff race, I would be less confident I guess, but with it being Kansas, I’m really excited.”

Even Bowman, who would need to score his first career Cup win to advance, exudes confidence.

“I love this place,” Bowman said. “I really enjoy it. I haven’t had the best days here by any means, but I’ve won a few times in ARCA and ran really well here in ’16. So, I think it’s a good place for me. I’m just going to try to make the most of it and have the best day we can.”

The question is if that will be good enough for Bowman and the other three drivers below the cutoff line to advance and keep their title hopes alive.

Results, point standings after Kansas Xfinity race

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John Hunter Nemechek led the final 30 laps to win Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Kansas Speedway for his first Xfinity win.

Nemechek beat Daniel Hemric, Elliott Sadler, Shane Lee and Tyler Reddick.

Nemechek is the third first-time winner this season.

Hemric finished second after leading 128 laps. He is winless this year and has finished in the top three 11 times.

Click here for the results.

Points

After earning his best finish since the July race at Daytona, Elliott Sadler trails Daniel Hemric by nine points.

The top four – which will advance to the championship round – is rounded out by Tyler Reddick (-12) and Christopher Bell (-22).

The eight driver playoff field is completed by Matt Tifft (one point back from Bell), Justin Allgaier (five points from Bell), Cole Custer (23 points back from Bell) and Austin Cindric (43 points back from Bell).

Hemric’s car was found to be too low in post-race inspection, which is a L1 penalty. L1 penalties can include the loss of 10-40 points (in the past has been a 10 point penalty) and can include the suspension of crew chief and/or other team members and a fine between $10,000- $40,000.

Click here for the point standings.

 

John Hunter Nemechek earns first Xfinity Series win

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John Hunter Nemechek bounced back from two pit stop miscues in the last 50 laps to earn his first Xfinity Series win Saturday at Kansas Speedway.

Nemechek, 21, led the final 30 laps. That was after he went from fifth to first on the final restart with 32 laps to go.

The son of former Cup driver Joe Nemechek earned the win in his 15th start.

Nemechek had to pass Daniel Hemric, who finished second after leading 128 laps.

“It means a lot, especially at Kansas,” Nemechek told NBC. “(In) 2004, I forget how old I was. But dad swept the weekend in the Xfinity Series and the Cup Series. It’s pretty special.”

The top five was completed by Elliott Sadler, Shane Lee and Tyler Reddick.

Nemechek pitted with Hemric with 50 laps to go and slid through his pit box. He left pit road three seconds behind Hemric.

When the final caution waved with 36 laps to go, Nemechek had to pit twice to tighten lug nuts.

“When that caution came I knew we had a chance,” Nemechek told NBC. “Luckily Daniel and I raced each other hard and clean all day. We got the track position and this thing was unreal to the end.”

When Nemechek took the checkered flag, he led Hemric by roughly five seconds. Hemric said he had a vibration over the last 15 laps.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Daniel Hemric

STAGE 2 WINNER: John Hunter Nemechek

MORE: Results, point standings

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Elliott Sadler earned his best finish since the July Daytona race (second) … Shane Lee placed fourth for his career-best finish … Tyler Reddick earned his first top five of the playoffs … Ryan Sieg placed ninth for his second top 10 of the season.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Playoff contenders Cole Custer, Justin Allgaier, Austin Cindric and Christopher Bell were all involved in a nine-car wreck on Lap 1. Only Custer finished the race (26th) … Brandon Jones was eliminated via a one-car incident on the ensuing restart … After being involved in the Lap 1 crash, Spencer Gallagher was eliminated in one-car incident on Lap 26 … After Bell and Jones, Ryan Preece completed the Joe Gibbs Racing trifecta. He was involved in an incident on the last lap of Stage 2 when he was turned from contact with Joey Gase. Preece finished 21st.

NOTABLE: John Hunter Nemechek is the third driver to earn his first Xfinity win of the season (Ross Chastain, Spencer Gallagher).

POST-RACE INSPECTION: Daniel Hemric’s No. 21 Chevy was found to too low, which is a L1 penalty. L1 penalties can include the loss of 10-40 points (in the past it has been 10-point penalty) and suspension of crew chief and/or other team members and a fine between $10,000 – $40,000.

WHAT’S NEXT: O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway at 3:30 p.m. ET on Nov. 3. on NBCSN.

Video: Xfinity playoff contenders out after Lap 1 crash at Kansas

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Three of the eight playoff contenders were eliminated in a crash on the first lap of Saturday’s Xfinity race at Kansas Speedway, which opens the Round of 8.

Justin Allgaier, Christopher Bell, Austin Cindric and Cole Custer were involved in a nine-car wreck as the field raced through Turn 2. Allgaier, Bell and Cindric were eliminated while Custer’s team was able to make repairs to his No. 00 Ford.

It began when Allgaier got loose and made contact with Bell.

“Just hate it for everybody that we took out on Lap 1. It’s uncalled for, ” Allgaier told NBC. “That one’s on me.”

Bell, who won this race last year, told NBC he “didn’t really see much of anything” as the wreck developed. “Just heartbroken. This is one of my favorite race tracks we go to. Especially after the run I had last year. This was the race I was really looking forward to when we started the year back in February.”

Allgaier earned his second DNF of the playoffs while Bell and Cindric earned their first.

“It was just a racing incident,” Cindric said. “You don’t really expect something that big to happen in front of you on the first lap. … It is unfortunate that it happened that early. Huge points implications on my end and the owners championship end. I have to put my head down the next couple weeks and figure it out.”

Non-playoff drivers Michael Annett, Ryan Truex, Spencer Gallagher and Chase Briscoe were also involved.

The race restarted on Lap 12. The field was immediately slowed by a one-car incident involving Brandon Jones on the backstretch.