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All-Star quandary – Lag back to get tires or charge?

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CONCORD, N.C. — The race in the middle of the 20-car field in tonight’s Sprint All-Star Race could prove fascinating and show what teams think is the best strategy to win $1 million.

With either nine, 10 or 11 drivers required to pit for tires before the  final 13-lap segment, teams are left to ponder if they’d rather have old tires and track position or four fresh tires and start deep in the field.

“I could be totally wrong … but I think everybody is going to race for 12th in the second segment, and I think that’s going to be very interesting,’’ Matt Kenseth said.

Should 11 teams be forced to pit, the car in 12th will then be the leader. All teams that pit will start behind those that do not.

“It’s hard to me to wrap my arms about racing for 12th,’’ Kevin Harvick said.

NASCAR stated in the drivers meeting that the 100 percent rule is in effect. Rule 7.5.a states: “NASCAR requires its Competitor(s) to race at 100% of their ability with the goal of achieving their best possible finishing position in the Event.”

What adds intrigue to tonight’s race is what will the tire do. With rain canceling Friday’s track activity, drivers have only the laps they ran Saturday morning to asses the new tire.

Although Kyle Larson won the final 10-lap segment in the Sprint Showdown after changing only two tires before that run, Chase Elliott chased him down from sixth with four fresh tires and nearly won the race.

Larson, along with Elliott and Danica Patrick, who both got in via the fan vote, ran all 50 laps in the Sprint Showdown. Those three have run the most laps on these tires than any other competitor.

Kyle Busch ran the most laps in Saturday morning’s All-Star practice at 30 laps. The only other drivers who ran more than 20 laps in the morning practice were Jimmie Johnson (27 laps), Kevin Harvick (23) and Brad Keselowski (21)

“Looks like tires mean something, which is good, I guess,’’ Busch said. “Being out there and running with new tires, the car has got a lot of grip and drives really good and it kind of falls off. It really falls off about lap 15 or so, really starts to take a hit.

“Those guys that are going to be on 15-plus tires after the end of the second segment versus the guys that are going to have the opportunity to take four for the final segment, it’s going to be a hell of a race. I think we’re going to see a lot of comers and goers in that segment, which is what this package and this program is intended to show.’’

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