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Future can wait, it’s all about the present for Chase Elliott

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When you’re 19 – soon to be 20 (Nov. 28) – and with your whole life and the whole world ahead of you, it can be hard to contain yourself and restrain excitement.

But that’s not the case for defending Xfinity Series champion Chase Elliott. With a maturity far beyond his years, Elliott has become a master of both patience and compartmentalizing things.

While Elliott will jump to the Sprint Cup Series and take over the fabled No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet next season, replacing the soon-to-retire Jeff Gordon, he’s not letting what the future holds in store get to him.

Rather, Elliott is focused on just one thing: to repeat as Xfinity champ. He’s 27 points behind series leader Chris Buescher, with three races remaining (Texas, Phoenix and Homestead).

“We’re all-in for this season,” Elliott said during NASCAR’s test session Tuesday at Michigan International Speedway. “It’s just beyond unfair for me to forget about what we have on the Xfinity side and to forget about that now. We’ve come all season, why quit now? There’s no need in that.”

Even though Elliott was getting a bit of a head start on 2016 by testing the upcoming new low-downforce package at MIS along with Erik Jones and Chris Buescher, Elliott still believes he can overtake Buescher for the championship.

“We still have a chance, that’s our mindset,” Elliott said. “If we didn’t think that, we might as well just not go to the last three. I think we do have a legitimate shot to get it done.

“I think it can be done, but we definitely have to have some things go your way. Anything can happen, it can go for you or against you real fast. Hopefully we can put together three solid weekends, not have any mistakes, and give ourselves a chance to get another win this season. I think that would be a big help. But no, definitely I’ve not forgotten about this year and I’m not going to.”

As for Tuesday’s test in particular, Elliott likes the new aero package he’ll be driving in the Sprint Cup Series next season, which includes a 3.5-inch rear spoiler, a 0.25-inch front leading splitter edge and a 33-inch wide radiator pan.

But Elliott also said there’s even more to build upon going forward with the new package.

“I’d like to think it’ll (race competition will) be better, but I don’t know how much better it’ll be,” he said. “I hope this is a small step as we continue down this path. We don’t need to stop here. I think we need to continue, if that’s the direction we need to go in, and not get satisfied too soon.”

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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