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Kevin Harvick begins Stewart-Haas’ Ford era at Phoenix test

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Nearly a year after announcing it would move from Chevrolet to Ford, Stewart-Haas Racing is “not guessing anymore.”

As part of a two-day organization test at Phoenix Raceway, Kevin Harvick became the first SHR driver to pilot their new Ford-powered car on a track (Kurt Busch drove his No. 41 Ford on a highway).

“The main thing is we have a starting point now,” Harvick said Tuesday in a press conference. “We’re not guessing anymore with what’s going on or where you’re at. We had to get on the track so we knew where we had to work from here. It’s been an interesting morning, going through the basic stuff and we’ll go from there.”

The test will be SHR’s only chance to collect on-track data before all four of its teams arrive at Daytona International Speedway – a completely different track from the 1-mile Phoenix – for Speedweeks. The No. 4 team spent the morning of the first test day “running down some checklists of some really basic things” of where the team was and what it needs to work on.

For Harvick there was “really no surprise” as to how his No. 4 Ford felt, saying the current aero package “is similar to a lot of the things that we had at the two races last year (Michigan, Kentucky) that we were running. Now we can dive into problems and start trying to solve those issues, but they’re very similar to the things that we’ve had in the past.”

Harvick, who has earned all 35 of his Cup wins with Chevrolet, said the “biggest difference” in his Ford is “the way that it sounds.”

“The drivability of it isn’t that big of a difference,” Harvick said. “But the balance of the car is a bit different than we’ve had in the past. Just not one reason for that though. I think that’s a little bit where we’re at right now – the balance of the car with the balance of the new aero package.”

With a new manufacturer and new race and points formats, Harvick said he feels as confident as ever about the uncharted landscape entering a season. After SHR was “labeled as the lame duck teams” in its final season with Chevrolet, simply getting the car on track for the first time is “an accomplishment for the whole company.”

“The thing that keeps me motivated about my sport are the things that you can reach out and grab and motivate yourself with,” Harvick said. “Having a new manufacturer is probably the thing for me that is the most exciting because there’s going to be a lot of problems to solve and working through those things and working through with the team and organization is something that I thrive on.”

And Harvick notes, when he fired up his No. 4 car for the first time in 2017, “you flip the same switches you flipped last year to start the motor.”

“It is rocket science nowadays,” adds Harvick. “But it’s the same rocket science.”

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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