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Xfinity Series spotlight: Brennan Poole

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The statistics say it all for Brennan Poole.

Racing has taken him to 25 states and 76 tracks where he’s earned 217 wins while capturing nine championships. Success came in quarter midgets and dirt modifieds, as well as the UARA Series and the ARCA Racing Series.

At 25 years old, Poole now seeks the same success in NASCAR.

Having made the most of his part-time stint in the Xfinity Series in 2015, team owner Chip Ganassi hired Poole to drive the No. 48 DC Solar Chevrolet full-time this year. A Rookie of the Year contender, Poole is on the edge of a Chase berth as he sits seventh in points on the strength of 10 top-10 finishes.

It was a heartbreaker at Talladega Superspeedway in late April, however, when Poole really broke into the spotlight. A tough fight to the checkered flag left Poole sitting at the finish line for five minutes while NASCAR reviewed whether he or Elliott Sadler had won the Sparks Energy 300.

His humility and grace in defeat quickly captured the adoration of many.

A native of The Woodlands, Texas, Poole is one of the most laid-back yet hardest-charging drivers in the Xfinity Series.

NBC Sports: I wanted to start with what has been a noticeable change about you – your hair has been cut short. What happened to the long locks that had become so familiar?

Poole: (laughs) It kept getting in my eyes. The second Iowa race last year it was just driving me nuts. It was in my eyes, and I had my shield open under green, and I was pushing it back in my helmet. I just remember that race being like, all right, I’m not doing this again, and I think I cut it the next week. It wasn’t like a big thing; it was starting to get annoying, so I cut it.

NBC Sports: You have a very successful dirt background, which many look at as an entirely different discipline from NASCAR. Was there anything you carried over to stock cars?

Poole: Running dirt you have this comfort where you’re able to move around and search for things and try things, and you’re not really afraid to move around. In the race, things change, and you have to start searching and find that grip, and that could be the difference in you winning the race or losing the race. I think here, even though it’s not dirt, in a long race more rubber gets laid down in certain places, and you have to move around and try to find that extra grip. That’s the biggest thing for me; I’m able to search bravely.

NBC Sports: How did ‘‘The Bull’’ nickname come about?

Poole: ‘‘The Bull’’ came from me charging to the front from the back all the time. It was just a fan when I was younger calling me that, and my mom heard it in the stands. She was like ‘‘That’s my son!’’ It kind of stuck. I tried to change it for a long time, I didn’t really like it, but it wouldn’t go away, so now I roll with it.

NBC Sports: Your website lists all the places you have been and the success you’ve had. Having traveled that much was there any place, in particular, you got attached to?

Poole: If I won a race or something I’d really like that place. When I first started racing asphalt, I raced UARA, and I raced at Hickory (Motor Speedway in Hickory, North Carolina) a bunch and the first race I drove a stock car was there, so I kind of call that one of my home tracks. It’s where I got my asphalt start and won a lot of races there. Dirt tracks in Texas, too. I grit my teeth on a lot of those places.

NBC Sports: DC Solar, your sponsor, is all about being green, and they’ve become involved with NASCAR in doing that at the track with solar generators and things. What’s it like to have a sponsor like that? 

Poole: We have that first ‘green’ cool-down unit; it’s solar powered. I think it’s awesome they’re trying to help our sport be a little bit greener in the areas that they can, and they’re doing some stuff at the race tracks with some solar generators lighting the parking lights or powering stuff around the tracks. Just really cool to see all that stuff.

NBC Sports: The NASCAR Xfinity Series is your current challenge after winning everywhere else you’ve competed along the way. How badly do you want to win here?

Poole: I’ve won in everything I’ve sat in so hopefully we can get it done in the Xfinity Series. I want to move forward and go to Sprint Cup, and I feel like I have to get the job done here first.

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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.”