Gordon, Harvick, Kyle Busch, Truex head to Miami; Dale Jr. wins at PIR

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Rain cut short Sunday’s Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, and it also cut short four drivers’ hopes of advancing to next Sunday’s championship-deciding race in Miami.

As a result, defending series champion Kevin Harvick (second), Kyle Busch (fourth) and Martin Truex Jr. (14th) will join Jeff Gordon (sixth; he already had advanced with a Martinsville Speewday win) in racing for the championship.

Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch and Joey Logano were eliminated after the third round of the playoffs.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. scored his third win of the season and third at Phoenix  when the race was called after 219 of a scheduled 312 laps.

Harvick finished second, followed by Logano, Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson.

Sixth through 10th were Gordon, Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin, Keselowski and Aric Almirola.

HOW EARNHARDT WON: Excellent pit strategy, plain and simple. Crew chief Greg Ives brought Earnhardt into the pits during a green-flag cycle just as the caution flew for a two-car crash involving Joey Gase and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Earnhardt inherited the lead from Harvick when he beat the yellow out of the pits. Shortly thereafter, the rain came, negating the opportunity to restart the race and making Earnhardt the winner.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Obviously, it was a great race for Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Harvick – not so much for where they finished, but because they all stayed above the points cutoff to advance to the championship finale at Miami along with Gordon.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Even though they had decent runs going before the rain came, it wound up being less than Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch and Joey Logano had hoped, as rain prevented them from having a shot at reaching next Sunday’s championship round. … As for the actual race itself, Joey Gase and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. both made hard contact to the outside wall on Lap 197 and suffered heavy damage. Stenhouse was running 16th at the time but wasn’t on the lead lap.

NOTABLE: How close was it when the rain came? Truex finished 14th to secure the fourth and final spot at Miami with just a five-point edge over Carl Edwards. … Kurt Busch got off to a bad start when NASCAR ruled he jumped the start of the race, a subject that was covered during the prerace driver’s meeting. Busch was assessed a stop-and-go penalty, dropping him from the front of the field back to 35th. … The first 100 laps went by in a very speedy 49 minutes. … Rain postponed the race by more than six hours, 30 minutes from its scheduled start time. … Chevrolet clinched its 13th consecutive (and 30th overall) manufacturer’s championship. … Can you say irony? There will be three Chevrolets (Gordon, Truex and Harvick) and one Toyota (Kyle Busch) in Sunday’s championship race, but not one Ford driver in a race called the Ford 400, part of Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It’s my last one and I couldn’t be more excited or more determined to go down there and do what it takes. … I think our chances are good. I can’t say until we get the green flag or the checkered flag, but I feel pretty good about it right now.” – Jeff Gordon on going to Homestead for the final race – and final hope for a fifth Sprint Cup championship – in his career.

WHAT’S NEXT: The season-ending and championship deciding Ford 400 will take place Sunday, Nov. 22, at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

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

 

 

Kurt Busch win capped off big racing weekend for family

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After hopping from the door of his No. 1 Chevrolet Sunday night, Kurt Busch let out a primal scream.

The source of his emotion?

“20 years of agony and defeat” at the his home track, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, had been replaced by “triumph.”

After the fortunate timing of a caution and pit strategy Sunday night, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver led the final 26 laps and visited LVMS’ Victory Lane for the first time, a day after his brother Kyle Busch experienced a special win.

There was plenty more for the 42-year-old driver to celebrate. He’d entered the Round of 12 as the last driver in the playoff standings. But with his first win in 46 races, Busch became the first driver to plant in his flag in the Round of 8.

But the Las Vegas native’s focus was on the 1.5-mile track, which he’d seen evolve from a “desert gravel pit” into the site of two NASCAR race weekends each year.

“This feeling of growing up here and watching the track get built … when Speedway Motorsports came in and bought it, I’m like, ‘Man, there’s going to be a Cup race there, I hope I can make my way up through Legend cars (and race there). And just all the memories, all the memories of everybody, my mom and dad, every Saturday night, all the commitment they gave me and my little brother (Kyle Busch) to make it in racing.

“For me it was a hobby. I never knew I’d get this far. A guy named Craig Keough here locally in Las Vegas, the owner of the Star Nurseries here in Las Vegas, took a chance on me and let me run his late model a few times and we won a couple races and started working our way up.”

Busch made his first NASCAR start on the Las Vegas oval in 2001 driving for Roush Fenway Racing. Between then and Sunday, he won 31 Cup races, the 2004 championship and the 2017 Daytona 500.

But his home track eluded him until his 21st year competing on the sport’s top circuit.

Busch said Sunday’s win is “right there underneath” his Daytona win and the championship.

“Any time you win, it’s special,” Busch said. “But to do it in front of my hometown crowd and nobody was there (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) and all the people that I see every time I come to Vegas and I get to say thank you and I can’t right now, that’s the hardest part. So this one is easily ramping up to being my third most favorite win ever.

“Right now it’s my favorite because it’s here, it’s Vegas, and I have so many people to thank. They know they helped me, and they know who they are, and it just all started with mom and dad taking me to the racetrack right here at the Bullring in Las Vegas.”

The Busch family got to celebrate more than one win over the weekend.

The night before Kurt’s Vegas breakthrough, a third generation racer got his first taste of victory.

Kyle and Samantha Busch’s son, Brexton, won his first karting race and celebrated with his parents in Victory Lane.

“It’s so much fun to watch him and just to see his excitement and how much he enjoys going to the race track and being with is friends,” Kyle Busch said after his sixth-place finish Sunday. “It’s three generations worth, I guess. My dad (Tom) did it, myself and Kurt and now him. It’s pretty fun to just be out there. My dad is kind of the truck driver, the team manager, the crew chief, the lead mechanic and all that stuff on his kart.

“He’s got a big task at hand in order to get it all ready to go and get us to the race track every week. It’s been fun to see (Brexton) and to see how excited he was when he was able to win and beat the other competition that was out there and to see his joy. I told him, ‘Whatever that feeling is, whatever you’re feeling, however that sits in you, that’s feasible, that’s possible a lot more often than just one time. So don’t rest on just getting one, we gotta go out there and fight for more.'”

Kurt Busch wasn’t there for his nephew’s win, but he got all the details from his sister-in-law as they flew to Las Vegas.

“It definitely felt like a generational shift was happening,” he said. “But maybe not. Maybe not. This old guy has still got it going on.”