Who is Hot, Not going into final Cup elimination race at Phoenix

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Maybe it’s the track or maybe it’s the playoffs.

Either way, Phoenix Raceway is a place that’s kind to drivers no matter where they start.

The 1-mile track, which hosts the final elimination race of the Cup playoffs on Sunday (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC), has seen seven of its last 13 winners start outside the top 10.

The most recent and lowest starting winner was Ryan Newman, who won in March in an overtime finish thanks to pit strategy after starting 22nd.

Only two of the last six Phoenix winners have started outside the top 10. Kevin Harvick, who has eight Phoenix victories, started outside the top 10 times and 15th or lower in three of them.

From the spring 2010 to spring 2014 races, six of nine winners started from outside the top 10.

The lowest-starting winner in Phoenix history is Ricky Rudd in 1995, when he started 29th.

Here’s who is hot and not entering Sunday’s race, courtesy of Racing Insights.

Who is Hot

Brad Keselowski
• Finished fourth at Martinsville, fifth at Texas.
• Currently fourth in points, +19 to the cutline.
• Advanced to the Round of 8 with his win at Talladega.
• Winless at Phoenix in 16 starts, best finish of third in 2014.
• Finished top 10 in five of the last seven races at Phoenix including fifth in March

Kevin Harvick

• Won at Texas to advance to the Championship four at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the third time in the last four years.
• Five top-10 finishes in the playoffs and three finishes of 17th or worse.
• Won six of the last 10 races at Phoenix. Has eight total wins.
• Finished top six in the last eight Phoenix races.
• Failed to lead in the last two Phoenix races.

Martin Truex Jr.

• Finished second at Martinsville and Texas.
• Finished top five in seven of the eight playoff races.
• Has already advanced to championship race based on points.
• Seven wins in 2017, the most by a driver since Matt Kenseth had seven in 2013.
• Led a series-high 2,175 laps in 2017 and has led the most laps in nine races.
• Best Phoenix finish is fifth in 2009.
• Only one top-10 finish in the last seven Phoenix races.

Kyle Busch
• Won at Martinsville on last-lap pass for his third win of the playoffs
• Five wins this season have all come in the last 14 races.
• Led laps in the last 17 races this season, a personal best and the best streak ever among active
drivers.
• Finished 19th at Texas after Lap 1 contact with Keselowski.
• One Phoenix win in 2005.
• Finished top five in the last four Phoenix races including leading 114 laps before finishing third in March.

Who is Not

Jimmie Johnson
• Finished 12th at Martinsville and 27th at Texas.
• Only one top-five finish in the last 21 races.
• Finished outside the top 10 in the last four races.
• Four top-five finishes this season, three were wins.
• Four-time Phoenix winner but none since 2009.
• Only two top-10 finishes at Phoenix in the last six races there.
• Finished ninth at Phoenix in March.

Kyle Larson

• Finished 39th at Kansas, 37th at Martinsville and Texas, his worst three consecutive starts in his
career.
• Eight runner-up finishes this season.
• Four wins in 2017, had one before this season.
• Finished top three in last two Phoenix races including runner-up in March

Kurt Busch

• Finished ninth at Texas after winning the pole. Only his second top 10 of the playoffs.
• Finished 16th in the first round, 25 points below the cut line.
• One Phoenix win in 2005.
• Finished top 10 in five of the last six Phoenix races. Finished 25th in March.

Kasey Kahne

• Finished 11th at Texas. His worst finish in the last six races is 16th.
• Only three top-10 finishes in the last 24 races.
• Six DNFs for accidents this season.
• One Phoenix win in fall 2011.
• Only one top-10 finish in the last seven Phoenix races.

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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