Kyle Busch heads home to Las Vegas with points lead

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The Kyle Busch championship tour continues this weekend as the Sprint Cup Series heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Kobalt 400.

A native of Las Vegas, it will be Busch’s first time racing at his home track since claiming his first Cup title in November.

After two races, Busch is making up for the 11 races he missed in 2015 after injuries sustained in the Xfinity Series opener at Daytona International Speedway. He heads into the weekend with the points lead after finishing third at both Daytona International Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway. The Daytona result was a career best in the race and Sunday’s top five at Atlanta was his fifth, which includes two wins.

But Las Vegas is different. Busch is the only Nevada native to win at the 1.5-mile track, which began hosting Sprint Cup events in 1998. Busch’s lone win came in 2009 when he won from the pole. Other than that, he’s only earned two top-10 finishes at the track in his last seven races there.

“Vegas always means a little bit more pressure – more pressure on myself – just because it’s the hometown and you want to win there,” Busch said in a press release. “Thankfully, I have won there and I’ve knocked that one off the list, but certainly you want to win there every year.”

It’s been seven years since Busch’s win, coming in his second season with Joe Gibbs Racing. JGR has claimed both of Toyota’s two wins at LVMS, the second coming in 2013 with Matt Kenseth. The remaining four races over the last five years have been split by Ford and Chevrolet.

“It seems like either Carl (Edwards) or Jimmie (Johnson) are better than most there,” said Busch. “I was fortunate enough to win there in 2009, but we haven’t run to my liking there overall, so I’m hoping we can have a strong run there this weekend.”

A JGR teammate, Edwards has won in Vegas twice, the last coming in 2011. Johnson is four-time winner in Las Vegas, finding victory lane from 2005-07 and in 2010.

But the entire field will be in new territory this weekend, as the Cup series brings its new low-downforce package to the track after its debut at Atlanta. Johnson was part of a Goodyear tire test at the track in January that included Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski.

“It’s much different than Atlanta last weekend, even though both tracks are the same size,” Busch said. “Vegas is really grippy with the tire being a little harder compound and you’ve got really good speed, but then in the race it gets sunny and can get loose and slick. Once you get your car handling good, you still have a lot of speed and don’t fall off at places like Atlanta and Texas.”

Busch and the rest of the field will see extra track time this weekend to prepare. NASCAR is giving Cup teams five hours of testing Thursday in addition to its regularly schedule practice sessions on Friday and Saturday.

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