Dale Earnhardt Jr.: End of final Martinsville Cup race ‘a big deal’ for NASCAR

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MARTINSVILLE, Virginia – The last Martinsville race of Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s Cup career left the driver “jacked up.”

And he didn’t even finish in the top 10.

Fresh off a 11th-place finish in the First Data 500 in his special “Gray Ghost” paint scheme, the 14-time most popular driver took to Periscope with a big grin on his face and a simple message.

“That’s what NASCAR needs every week.”

The racing, cheering, booing and the anger. All of it going on seemingly non-stop for 15 minutes after the race’s chaotic finish.

“I was so jacked up when I got out of the car I felt like I had drank a pot of coffee with everything going on at the end at the finish,” Earnhardt said.

It started when Joey Logano spun 13 laps from the overtime finish because of a cut tire he received after contact with Kyle Busch and continued when Chase Elliott forced Brad Keselowski out of the racing groove to take the lead during the ensuing restart.

It escalated when Denny Hamlin turned race leader Elliott into the outside wall with two laps to go in the original 500-lap distance. Hamlin then lost the lead on the last lap of the overtime finish when Busch, his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, forced  him out of the way in Turn 1. It all concluded after a Talladega-like crash at the checkered flag with a shower of jeers and cheers as Elliott and Hamlin exchanged words on the track.

“That was a wiiiild finish, man!” Earnhardt said. “I ain’t seen nothing like that ever. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a short track finish that was so crazy.”

At the time of his Periscope, Earnhardt didn’t even know where he had finished. But he was sure of something else after the first Cup race at Martinsville to finish under the lights.

“That’s what NASCAR needs every week,” Earnhardt said. “NASCAR needs short track racing, particularly and preferably under the lights. If that was going on more often than not in the sport, you wouldn’t have enough tickets. You’d have to build tracks just like Bristol with all the grandstands you can find.

“That’s so much better than a lot of the things that we do. I don’t really know how to put it into words. But that kind of action and drama, that’s what grows the sport and gets people talking. My God. We don’t need guys getting turned around and wrecked every week. I guess what I’m saying is, drama and exciting finishes, the fans in the grandstands cheering like crazy and booing and cheering and booing and cheering after every interview for 15, 20 minutes after the race.

“We need that every weekend.”

Earnhardt, who has three races left as a full-time Cup driver, also was excited about the discussions the race will prompt in the week leading up to this coming weekend’s race at Texas Motor Speedway.

“Woo, that was a big deal for the sport,” Earnhardt said. “We’ll be talking about that a lot this week. Man, is it going to be dominating the headlines and storylines. We won’t be talking about PJ1 and all that mess.

“Martinsville under the lights sure did deliver.”

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