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Challenge of facing repaved track nothing like what Daniel Suarez faced last week

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A repaved and reconfigured track that he hadn’t driven on until today? No problem. It’s much easier than what Daniel Suarez experienced last week.

Suarez is looking forward to this week’s challenge after all he went through leading up to Martinsville and last weekend’s race.

Joe Gibbs Racing announced two days before Suarez took to the track at Martinsville Speedway that crew chief Dave Rogers would take an indefinite leave for personal reasons. Scott Graves, who won the 2016 Xfinity title with Suarez, is serving as Suarez’s crew chief.

Suarez admits that the change was a challenge.

The race wasn’t better. Suarez finished a season-worst 32nd in his first Cup run at Martinsville.

“Just happy to get that week over,’’ Suarez said Friday at Texas Motor Speedway. “There was a lot going on that weekend, and it was a lot of work and a lot of rush and a lot going on. I’m just glad to get that behind.’’

Suarez admits even with the changes to the track at Texas, this is a “more normal” week for him.

“Last week … I wasn’t very excited to get to the racetrack and talk to (the media), to be honest,’’ he said. “It was just a lot going on. I just wanted to get to the racetrack and drive the car. There were a lot of adjustments. When you change a key part of the team, it definitely changes something.

“Now for Texas, I feel we have more time to adapt and talk about things and talk about the racetrack and talk about the car. More and more confident coming into Texas.’’

Suarez will be busy this weekend, competing in both the Xfinity and Cup events. He’s looking forward to the extra track time because of the unknowns with the changes to the racing surface.

One thing he’ll focus on is to be better in the middle of races. While he has a pair of seventh-place finishes (Phoenix and Auto Club Speedway), those results have been because of strong finishes that made up for struggles in the middle of the race. His average running position in the middle of a race this season is 27.3, and his average finish is 19.3.

“I don’t feel that we have raced in the whole race very well, but we have closed the race good with a car that I felt like was capable of doing that,’’ Suarez said. “I had a lot of conversations with Dave about having the right car in the middle of the race to get there in the end. I know that we can do it. We just have to work on our communication to get the car closer to what I like and where I can feel more comfortable and be fast. Hopefully, I can get to that point fast with Scott.’’

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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