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Five drivers to watch at Watkins Glen International

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Keep an eye on these five drivers in Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International.

Tony Stewart

Stewart has a track-record five wins at Watkins Glen, but since the last of those victories in 2009, he’s had it rough there. Stewart missed the 2013 and 2014 events at the Glen, and last year, he suffered a mechanical failure. But he’s coming in hot this weekend with four top-five finishes in the last six races – including his dramatic victory on the road course at Sonoma. Stewart said this week that his team, while making great strides, is still “a little bit short” of being ready for a title run. A win this weekend may change his mind.

Joey Logano

Logano has become a reliable bet on road courses. In his last four runs on the twisty tracks, Logano has finished sixth-fifth-first-third, with the win coming at Watkins Glen last year. Oddly enough, he’s only led one lap during this stretch – the last lap of that aforementioned win, where he caught and passed Kevin Harvick, who was out of gas, in the final corner.

AJ Allmendinger

Facing a 59-point deficit to 16th place, Allmendinger faces a must-win situation at Watkins Glen to save his ebbing Chase hopes. ‘Dinger has the skills to contend here, but the bigger question may be about his luck. In each of the three road course races since his 2014 win at the Glen, he’s qualified on the front row only to be foiled by mechanical issues (fuel cell at Sonoma 2015, battery at Watkins Glen 2015) plus a pit road penalty at Sonoma this past June.

Chris Buescher

Six points to gain. Five races to go. The mission is clear for Buescher, who can shake up the Chase with his upset win at Pocono – but only if he enters the top 30 in points to be eligible for the playoffs. Buescher finished third at Watkins Glen last year in the Xfinity Series, and it’s worth noting that his first Xfinity win came on a road course (Mid-Ohio 2014). But his goal on Sunday isn’t winning. It’s beating David Ragan, who holds 30th place in points just above him.

Brad Keselowski

After a crash in testing at Watkins Glen last week, many eyes will be on Keselowski this weekend. But here’s something to keep in mind: He had been fastest in the session prior to the wreck. And with four top-10 finishes in his last five Glen starts – including three consecutive runner-ups from 2011-13 – he figures to be toward the front on race day.

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