Tony Stewart says back feels great, but upcoming scans are critical to comeback

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DENVER, N.C. — Tony Stewart feels better than ever since fracturing his back nearly three months ago, but the timeframe of his comeback still will be dictated by a critical upcoming examination.

The three-time Sprint Cup champion, who suffered a burst fracture of the L1 vertebra in an all-terrain vehicle accident while riding in the sand dunes of Southern California in late January, will have his back scanned by the end of the month to evaluate the healing.

“The only thing I can’t do that I know of  is get in a stock car right now,” Stewart said Wednesday during an event to promote sponsor Mobil 1’s advanced fuel economy green initiatives (which will be featured on Stewart-Haas Racing cars this weekend at Richmond International Raceway). “I’m waiting on (doctors) more than anything. I’ve been doing everything I want to do. The only thing I haven’t tried I want to try is swinging a golf club and seeing if I can do it.

“With everything else, I’ve been pushing hard and haven’t had any (ill) feeling. They said pay attention to your body, and if it doesn’t feel right, something’s not right, so I’ve been trying to push myself intentionally to see what it’ll take, and it hasn’t pushed back yet. I’m pretty excited about the way it feels right now.”

Despite being out of his No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart still has attended several races. He also has been active on his homestead near Columbus, Indiana. Over the last two weeks, he estimated he had cleared six acres of trees from his property by piloting heavy machinery.

“Honestly, I’ve just been staying busy more than anything,” he said. “I can’t say I’ve been in therapy a lot, but what I’ve been doing on my property at home, (the doctors have said) you’re getting just as much benefit doing that as you are in here with me. I’ve just been staying busy and doing a lot of projects I wanted to do on my land in Indiana, so that seems to be working.”

Stewart said being behind the controls of a skid-steer loader isn’t that relatable to driving a 3,400-pound stock car, but it does give him a way to mimic being behind the wheel.

“It’s been a lot of fun, but at the same time, a skid steer doesn’t have suspension, so every day I’ve been pushing harder to see what my back will take,” he said. “Until we do the scans, we’re not going to know where we’re at. Having the ability to find out for myself where I’m at is a benefit there of doing that. Every day, I keep pushing it harder on what I’m doing with it and how aggressive I am with running the equipment around there. Got a lot of cool stuff going on there.”

Is Stewart good with playing the waiting game?

“What choice do I have? That’s the better question,” he said. “When you don’t have a choice, you just do it. For us right now, it’s just a matter of doing the stuff that we need to do and wait until they tell us it’s time.”

Brian Vickers and Ty Dillon have split time in Stewart’s No. 14 Chevrolet in his absence.

The three-time series champion announced last September that the 2016 season would be his last in the Sprint Cup Series. Clint Bowyer will take over his Stewart-Haas Racing ride next year as the team switches to Ford.

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.”