Kyle Busch rallies for fifth-place finish, holds final cutoff spot for Miami

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FORT WORTH, Texas — It wasn’t the best of nights for Kyle Busch, but it was good enough to keep him in contention to defend his Sprint Cup championship.

Busch finished fifth in Sunday’s rain-delayed and rain-shortened race at Texas Motor Speedway, overcoming damage to the front of his Toyota when he hit debris.

The result gives him a one-point lead on Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth heading into next weekend’s cutoff race at Phoenix. Teammate Denny Hamlin is two points behind Busch.

“Tonight wasn’t the night we were looking, but we weren’t looking for a night race, either,’’ Busch said of a race that was scheduled for 2 pm ET but didn’t begin until nearly 8 pm ET. “I thought our car was going to be better suited for the daytime.

“There about the second half of the race, the track started coming to us and everybody else started fading a little bit, so we were getting better at the long runs, but everybody was short-pitting so bad because we had so many sets of tires that you didn’t have to go full fuel runs. Next year taking a set away (of tires) ain’t going to hurt anything for racing I don’t believe.’’

Busch gained nine spots within the final 100 laps in a race shorted from 334 to 293 laps because of rain. He struggled to get into the top 10 early after he hit part of a hose that put a baseball-sized hole in the front of his car.

Teammate Carl Edwards advanced to the championship round in Miami by winning Sunday night. He joins Jimmie Johnson, who won last week at Martinsville. That leaves two spots left and three Gibbs drivers among those trying to make the final cut.

“We’ve just got to keep doing what we know how to do,’’ Busch said. “We’ve got to make sure that we can run in the top five, we’ve got to make sure we can go to victory lane, if possible. We’ve had all the finishes that we need thus far. We’ve got to be able to go out one more week and get another one.’’

Busch’s finish allowed him to gain three points on Kenseth and four points on Hamlin.

The race could be tighter between the teammates. Gibbs cars took four of the top seven spots at Phoenix earlier in the year. Busch finished fourth there behind Edwards (second) and Hamlin (third) there.

“I think our guys have done a great job of being able to make our cars better at Phoenix,’’ Busch said. “We knew that was a place we needed to get better at even before this Chase format was instituted.’’

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