Keep an eye on these drivers during NASCAR’s longest Sprint Cup race of the season Sunday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Charlotte has always been a good place for Logano, who has a series-leading average finish of 9.6 there, but it’s been even better for him most recently with wins there in the 2015 Sprint Cup playoffs and now the 2016 Sprint All-Star Race. This season, Logano’s been solid on mile-and-a-halves with finishes of second at Las Vegas and third at Texas; another top-five run was in the cards at Kansas, but he was caught in the late crash triggered by Denny Hamlin’s ill-fated, three-wide move on Brad Keselowski and Kyle Larson.
Edwards won the Coca-Cola 600 last year, but only after he stretched his final fuel tank 62 laps. With Joe Gibbs Racing having dominated the first third of the season, expect him to be much stronger Sunday. At Charlotte, he’s earned five consecutive top-10 finishes and eight top-10 finishes in the last nine races overall. Also, with the 600 being the longest race of the year, we can’t discount Edwards’ high level of physical fitness. It’s an advantage that could become more important as the night wears on.
Not much of a stretch here considering his work on mile-and-a-half tracks this season. But Harvick has been especially stout at Charlotte since 2013. Over his last six races there, he’s scored two wins, four top-two finishes, and an average finish of 3.5. His worst finish during that span? Ninth in last year’s 600.
Coming off a 15-point penalty that put him on the outside looking in with regards to the playoff picture, Kahne and the No. 5 team need a solid run this weekend. Kahne is a four-time winner at Charlotte but hasn’t visited Victory Lane there since the 2012 Coke 600. However, he’s still been decent. Before he crashed out there last fall, Kahne had posted an average finish of 7.0 at Charlotte over the previous seven races.
Larson has been on the losing end of late duels for the win at Dover and the Sprint All-Star Race, but he’s re-ignited the promise of his 2014 rookie season. He’ll look to become the seventh driver to earn his first Cup win in the 600, and a victory would erase a sizable, 40-point deficit to 16th place on the Chase Grid. However, his career results at Charlotte have been mixed so far (one top-10 finish in five starts).
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.