Five Sprint Cup drivers to watch at Kansas

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Keep an eye on these drivers during Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway on NBC.

Jimmie Johnson

The slump is officially over for Johnson, whose win last week at Charlotte continued what’s been a stout Chase so far for him. If not for penalties at Chicagoland and Dover, Johnson could’ve won three of the four Chase races, and he’s led nearly100 laps more in the Chase (363) than he did in the entire regular season (266). He finished 17th in May at Kansas —where he’s a 3-time winner. Expect him to be much stronger Sunday.

Martin Truex Jr.

A win at Kansas has been so close, yet so far away for Truex on several occasions. The latest near-miss was in May when he led 172 laps from the pole only to be knocked out of contention when a flying bolt head got lodged behind his right-front wheel and forced him to pit. Truex sits 19 points ahead of the cut line but with Talladega looming, he desperately wants a win (like everyone else) to avoid potential disaster next week.

Kevin Harvick

He has been beset by mechanical setbacks in the last two races (37th at Dover – track bar mount failure; 38th at Charlotte – electrical/engine), but he may have been saved by another at Charlotte when Denny Hamlin‘s engine blew late in the going. That allowed Harvick to pull within eight points of the cut line going into Kansas — where he’s finished first or second in four of the last six races, including a second in May.

Joey Logano

Before crashing at Kansas in the spring, Logano had rattled off two wins – the 2014 and 2015 Chase races – and five consecutive top-five finishes there. He’s on the outside looking in (six points behind the cut line) after being one of multiple Chasers in trouble at Charlotte. If he keeps clean this weekend, he figures to put himself in at least decent shape for Talladega

Kasey Kahne

Kahne missed the Chase, but he too has benefited from Hendrick Motorsports’ late-season uptick. He’s posted five top-10 finishes in the last six races (including a season-best third last week at Charlotte), and hasn’t finished worse than 14th in the last eight races. Like Johnson, he stands to be better at Kansas this weekend than he was in the spring (finished 16th).

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