Upon Further Review: Another late restart alters Chase

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While accidents and mechanical issues have impacted title contenders, nothing has had as great an impact on this Chase as late-race restarts.

Kevin Harvick’s pass of Carl Edwards on the final restart Sunday at Kansas Speedway marked the fourth time in five Chase races that the winner took the lead on the last restart.

For perspective, in the 12 races before the Chase started, only once did the winner take the lead for good on the final restart.

Harvick’s move Sunday means that he won’t have to worry about what happens this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway. He’ll be in the Round of 8 with Jimmie Johnson, who also took the lead on the final restart at Charlotte. 

Although each circumstance can be different — how much of an advantage one lane has over the other, who is behind to push, if anyone spins their tires, etc. — success on restarts is not all about luck.

For Harvick and his team it was about working to be better.

“It was really about timing and going back and watching footage and trying to figure out what I needed to do as far as ratios,’’ Harvick told NBC Sports after Sunday’s victory. “What I had done in the past wasn’t really working for us. We had to change. We had to change how we approach restarts and it’s been a lot better for us over the past three months. The first part of the year wasn’t very good, so we worked hard at getting that stuff right.’’

At Atlanta in late February, Harvick was second beside Johnson on an overtime restart. Johnson had the preferred lane on the inside. Harvick didn’t get a good restart and finished sixth after leading 131 of 330 laps.

Three weeks later, Harvick lost at Auto Club Speedway when Johnson passed him for the lead. Harvick started second and Johnson was third behind Harvick. Denny Hamlin led and had Joey Logano behind him. Logano didn’t get a good start and couldn’t push Hamlin. Johnson pushed Harvick into the lead and then got by him in Turn 3. Harvick finished second after leading 142 of 205 laps.

Things improved for Harvick at New Hampshire, the second race in the opening round of the Chase. He restarted second to Matt Kenseth and passed Kenseth down the backstretch. Harvick led the final six laps to win that race.

Johnson victimized Kenseth at Charlotte. Johnson beat Kenseth in a drag race toward Turn 3 on the final restart. Johnson led the final 18 laps to score his first win since that Auto Club Speedway triumph.

This trend with restarts could continue.

Twice in the last five races at Talladega, there has been a lead change on the final restart.

PIT STOPS

Austin Dillon and Kurt Busch became the last two Chase drivers to lead at least a lap in a Chase race. Busch led one lap at Kansas; Dillon led two.

— Matt Kenseth has led 269 laps in the last two fall Kansas races. That’s 50.1 percent of the laps run in those events. Despite leading all those laps, Kenseth finished 14th last fall and ninth Sunday.

AJ Allmendinger’s eighth-place finish was his sixth top-10 finish of the season. He finished eighth in both Kansas races this season.

Kasey Kahne’s 10th-place finish was his sixth top 10 in the last seven races. His 12 top 10s this season are his most in a year since 2013.

— Ford’s last win was 10 races ago when Chris Buescher won at Pocono. It’s Ford’s longest winless streak of the season.

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