Kyle Busch wins pole for Cup playoff opener at Chicagoland

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Kyle Busch won the pole for the Cup Series race at Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday, which is the opening race of the playoffs.

It is the seventh pole of the season for Busch, who claimed the spot with a speed of 187.963 mph.

The starting top five for the race is Busch, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski.

“It’s because I’m in a Toyota, that’s why, right?” Busch joked with NBCSN, referring to the Twitter exchange between him and Keselowski earlier in the day. “Just great adjustments right there. We were kind of a little bit free those first couple of runs and just trying to get the balance right and obviously the last round the balance was way better. Really able to attack and get the most out of it and that’s all she had.”

Also starting in the top 10 will be Kyle Larson (sixth), Chase Elliott (eighth), Austin Dillon (ninth) and Matt Kenseth (10th).

Ryan Blaney did not make a lap in the final round after he ran out of gas and will start 12th.

Five other playoff drivers made it to the second round.

Jimmie Johnson (14th), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (15th), Ryan Newman (16th), Kurt Busch (17th)  and Jamie McMurray (19th).

“A step in the right direction,” Johnson told NBCSN. “Starting in the seventh row is a lot better than where we’ve started here recently. If we can move forward like we typically do in the race, get in the top 10, top five, it can completely change the outcome of the race and get momentum going the right way for us. We’re digging deep. I think we’ve improved some. … It’s time for this 48 to get hot.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start 20th in his last Chicagoland start.

Erik Jones did not make a lap in the second round after he spun exiting Turn 4 with about six minutes left in the round.

Kasey Kahne was the only playoff driver who failed to advance out of the first round. He will start 25th in the postseason opener.

“We were missing rear grip, we didn’t have any,” Kahne told NBCSN. “We were terrible in practice. We were terrible in qualifying. Tomorrow’s a new day and we’ll do everything we can to be much better. But today was awful.”

Ray Black Jr. qualified 39th for his Cup Series debut. He is driving the No. 51 for Rick Ware.

Click here for qualifying results.

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