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Five drivers to watch at Texas Motor Speedway

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Keep an eye on these drivers this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.

Jimmie Johnson

After his win at Martinsville secured his place in the Championship 4, one may think Johnson can afford to relax. But when you have Kevin Harvick and all four Joe Gibbs Racing drivers still vying for their own Championship spot, keeping the hammer down is the only option – and a fifth consecutive Chase race win at Texas by Johnson would increase the pressure for all of them. Johnson leads all major categories at Texas, including wins (six), top fives (14), top 10s (20) and laps led (1,023).

Matt Kenseth

He is also coming into this weekend with momentum. Since finishing 11th at Texas in April, Kenseth has posted six consecutive top-10 finishes on 1.5-mile tracks. He’s also led over 100 laps in two of the last three races – that includes the most recent race on a 1.5-miler at Kansas (116 of 267; finished ninth) and last week’s race at Martinsville (176 of 500; finished fourth).

Martin Truex Jr.

Among the top drivers on 1.5-mile tracks this season (two wins, 817 laps led, 8.2 average finish), Truex looked poised to win at Texas back in April when a late-race decision to stay out instead of pitting for fresh tires backfired. And in last year’s Chase race at Texas, a loose wheel and power steering issue knocked him from contention in the closing laps. He would seem to be due.

Carl Edwards

Kyle Busch may have won at Texas earlier this year, but it can be argued that either Truex or Carl Edwards should’ve won based on performance. In Edwards’ case, he dominated the middle stages of that race until a loose wheel forced him to pit, fall a lap down, and then come back for a seventh-place finish. That was his fourth consecutive top 10 there, but only a win will likely erase his 32-point gap to the cut line and send him on to Miami.

Brad Keselowski

Keselowski has also been stout on mile-and-a-halves this year with victories at Las Vegas and Kentucky, plus a 10.4 average finish across all nine races on this type of track. Considering what he’s been through at Texas recently – the 2014 pit road brawl with Jeff Gordon and his dominant performance last fall dashed by Jimmie Johnson – a win here would mean a good deal to him.


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