CREW CHIEF: Luke Lambert
TEAM: Richard Childress Racing
TOP 5s: 5
TOP 10s: 15
LAPS LED: 20
WHAT WENT RIGHT: Ryan Newman had an almost identical year to 2014 performance-wise, but there were key differences. In 2014, he failed to win a race, had five top-five and 16 top-10 finishes, made the Chase and finished a surprising second behind champion Kevin Harvick. In 2015, he again failed to win a race (he hasn’t reached Victory Lane since the 2013 Brickyard 400), had five top-five and 15 top-10 finishes. He qualified for the Chase, but unlike the previous season failed to reach the final round, finishing the season in 11th place. Despite mediocre numbers overall, Newman continued to be a picture of consistency, with 28 lead-lap finishes.
WHAT WENT WRONG: After the outstanding finish in 2014, expectations were high not only for Newman’s team, but the entire RCR organization. Sure, Newman and teammate Paul Menard both made the Chase in 2015 (the first time Menard has ever done so), but all three RCR teams underachieved in the big picture, with its two Chase entrants failing to do much once they reached the playoffs. … RCR has now gone 21 seasons since its last Sprint Cup championship (Dale Earnhardt, 1994). … With the exception of Kevin Harvick’s nine combined wins between 2011 and 2013, no other RCR driver has visited Victory Lane since Paul Menard’s surprising win in the 2011 Brickyard 400. That’s nearly 4 ½ years!
WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2016: What happens in 2016 could have a significant impact upon RCR’s future. Will Childress grandson Ty Dillon be ready to be brought up to the Cup level in 2017? If so, does RCR expand to a fourth team, or are Newman and Menard on the hot seat to significantly up their performance – or potentially lose their seat for 2017? There are already rumors that the younger Dillon may drive for Joe Falk or Harry Scott (replacing Clint Bowyer after his one-year stint in 2016 before moving to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2017) in the Sprint Cup Series in 2017 if there is no room (or money for him) in the RCR inn.
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.
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.
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. ET – ARCA Menards Series on FS1 or FS2; network TBD at a later date (previously at 10 p.m. ET)
Saturday, Oct. 17, 4 p.m. ET – Truck 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)
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.
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.