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Who is hot and not in the Cup Series ahead of Watkins Glen

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For a long time the biggest names in NASCAR road course racing were Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart.

They’re gone, enjoying retirement.

So who does that leave?

As of June’s race at Sonoma Raceway, only Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch can claim to have won multiple road course races in the Cup Series.

Harvick’s Sonoma win joins his 2006 victory at Watkins Glen International, where the Cup Series returns this weekend for the I Love New York 355.

Busch, who just claimed his first win of the year at Pocono, leads all active drivers with four road course wins. His last came in 2015 when he won at Sonoma for his first win back from leg injuries.

Here’s who is hot and not going into this weekend’s race.

Who is Hot

Clint Bowyer
• Finished sixth at Pocono and won Stage 2 for first stage win of 2017.
• Has finished runner-up three times in 2017.
• Nine top 10s in 2017, had three in all of 2016.
• Top-10 finishes in three of the last five races at Watkins Glen.

Kyle Busch
• Won from the pole at Pocono, first win of 2017 and at Pocono.
• Pocono win ended a career-long 36-race winless streak.
• Led 1,114 laps this season, second most to Martin Truex Jr. Led the most laps six times including in the last two races.

Denny Hamlin
• Finished fourth at Pocono. Top-four finishes in five of the last seven races including a win at New Hampshire.
• Won at Watkins Glen last year. His best finish in the prior six WGI starts was 19th.
• Finished top four in the last three races on road courses.

Kevin Harvick
• Finished second at Pocono. Finished in top 10 in 12 of the last 15 races, including the last four races.
• Won at Sonoma in June, only win so far this season.

Who is Not

AJ Allmendinger
• Four top 10s in 2017, two were in the last five races.
• Only series win came at Watkins Glen in 2014.
• Watkins Glen is his best track with a win, three top fives, five top 10s and an average finish of 9.3.

Austin Dillon
• Finished 21st at Pocono, only one top-15 finish in the last seven races.
• Won on fuel mileage in Coke 600.
• Only two top-10 finishes this season, had nine at this point last year.
• Three starts at Watkins Glen with a best finish of 16th in 2014.

Ryan Blaney
• Finished 30th at Pocono.
• Has not had back-to-back top-10 finishes this season.
• Only one top 10 in the last five races (10th at Kentucky).
• Started and finished 19th in first Watkins Glen Cup start last year.

Jimmie Johnson
• Finished 35th at Pocono after crash. DNF in three of his last four races.
• One top 10 in his last six races.
• Three top-five finishes this season, all wins.
• Watkins Glen is one of three winless tracks (Kentucky and Chicagoland).
• Best Watkins Glen finish in 15 starts is third, twice.

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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

 

 

Kurt Busch win capped off big racing weekend for family

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After hopping from the door of his No. 1 Chevrolet Sunday night, Kurt Busch let out a primal scream.

The source of his emotion?

“20 years of agony and defeat” at the his home track, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, had been replaced by “triumph.”

After the fortunate timing of a caution and pit strategy Sunday night, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver led the final 26 laps and visited LVMS’ Victory Lane for the first time, a day after his brother Kyle Busch experienced a special win.

There was plenty more for the 42-year-old driver to celebrate. He’d entered the Round of 12 as the last driver in the playoff standings. But with his first win in 46 races, Busch became the first driver to plant in his flag in the Round of 8.

But the Las Vegas native’s focus was on the 1.5-mile track, which he’d seen evolve from a “desert gravel pit” into the site of two NASCAR race weekends each year.

“This feeling of growing up here and watching the track get built … when Speedway Motorsports came in and bought it, I’m like, ‘Man, there’s going to be a Cup race there, I hope I can make my way up through Legend cars (and race there). And just all the memories, all the memories of everybody, my mom and dad, every Saturday night, all the commitment they gave me and my little brother (Kyle Busch) to make it in racing.

“For me it was a hobby. I never knew I’d get this far. A guy named Craig Keough here locally in Las Vegas, the owner of the Star Nurseries here in Las Vegas, took a chance on me and let me run his late model a few times and we won a couple races and started working our way up.”

Busch made his first NASCAR start on the Las Vegas oval in 2001 driving for Roush Fenway Racing. Between then and Sunday, he won 31 Cup races, the 2004 championship and the 2017 Daytona 500.

But his home track eluded him until his 21st year competing on the sport’s top circuit.

Busch said Sunday’s win is “right there underneath” his Daytona win and the championship.

“Any time you win, it’s special,” Busch said. “But to do it in front of my hometown crowd and nobody was there (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) and all the people that I see every time I come to Vegas and I get to say thank you and I can’t right now, that’s the hardest part. So this one is easily ramping up to being my third most favorite win ever.

“Right now it’s my favorite because it’s here, it’s Vegas, and I have so many people to thank. They know they helped me, and they know who they are, and it just all started with mom and dad taking me to the racetrack right here at the Bullring in Las Vegas.”

The Busch family got to celebrate more than one win over the weekend.

The night before Kurt’s Vegas breakthrough, a third generation racer got his first taste of victory.

Kyle and Samantha Busch’s son, Brexton, won his first karting race and celebrated with his parents in Victory Lane.

“It’s so much fun to watch him and just to see his excitement and how much he enjoys going to the race track and being with is friends,” Kyle Busch said after his sixth-place finish Sunday. “It’s three generations worth, I guess. My dad (Tom) did it, myself and Kurt and now him. It’s pretty fun to just be out there. My dad is kind of the truck driver, the team manager, the crew chief, the lead mechanic and all that stuff on his kart.

“He’s got a big task at hand in order to get it all ready to go and get us to the race track every week. It’s been fun to see (Brexton) and to see how excited he was when he was able to win and beat the other competition that was out there and to see his joy. I told him, ‘Whatever that feeling is, whatever you’re feeling, however that sits in you, that’s feasible, that’s possible a lot more often than just one time. So don’t rest on just getting one, we gotta go out there and fight for more.'”

Kurt Busch wasn’t there for his nephew’s win, but he got all the details from his sister-in-law as they flew to Las Vegas.

“It definitely felt like a generational shift was happening,” he said. “But maybe not. Maybe not. This old guy has still got it going on.”