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Coach of Jimmie Johnson’s pit crew remains confident in unit despite recent penalties

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CONCORD, N.C. — As the Chase field narrows, what happens on pit road could play a key role in who advances.

That might not seem to be a good thing for Jimmie Johnson’s team, heading into Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the opening event in the Round of 12.

No Chase team had as many pit road penalties in the first round or as many penalties in the last 10 races. Despite those totals, Chris Krieg, pit coach for the No. 48 and 88 teams at Hendrick Motorsports, remains confident in the group.

Johnson has had two pit road penalties in the Chase. He was caught speeding in the Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway, and his crew was penalized at Dover when the jackman jumped off the wall too soon.

In the last 10 races, Johnson’s team has had 10 pit road penalties. Four have been for speeding, two have been for not controlling the tire in the pit box. The team also has been penalized for the crew over the wall too soon once and for a body modification during a pit stop another time.

The Dover penalty was a result of Johnson having to slow as he headed toward his pit stall when Aric Almirola exited his stall. That threw the timing of the pit stop off and the team’s jackman jumped over the wall too soon.

While that incident can be viewed as a fluke incident for the crew, Krieg looks at it another way.

“It’s awareness before you get to that point,’’ Krieg told NBC Sports. “Before you get to that millisecond where you’re up on the wall and your weight is forward, it’s all those seconds that led up to that. The 10 seconds before that we get up on the wall and we see our surroundings. (Crew chief Chad Knaus) and myself as a coach go, ‘Hey, be aware, we may get checked up here.’ It’s all the seconds before you get to that point where we keep learning and getting better.’’

Krieg, who is in his fourth year as a coach, isn’t worried about the crew bouncing back from a penalty or mistake. That’s why Hendrick Motorsports seeks former college athletes and those who have competed professionally in another sport.

“They’ve had negative plays or things happen their whole athletic career,’’ Krieg said. “They’re used to bouncing back. It’s what they’ve done their whole life from an athletic standpoint. If you were to take a regular person and have that happen to them, they may be in a dark room all week.’’

As he examines the performance of Johnson’s pit crew this season, Krieg sees improvement.

“Last year the 48 (pit crew) was quite possibly the best pit crew on pit road,’’ Krieg said. “This year may have started out slower on the stop watch then we would have liked. So we dug in, the guys did a great, great job. They worked harder than any other group than I’ve seen in a very long time.

“Our times on the stopwatch have went down considerably in the last two months.’’

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