Cup Championship 4 profile: Kyle Busch

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Following a devastating wreck in the 2015 Xfinity Series opener at Daytona International Speedway, Kyle Busch came back to win his first Cup championship that season.

Busch missed the first 11 races recovering from his injuries but made up for lost time by earning a career-best five wins that season (he also has five this season), including the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway that clinched the Cup title for him.

But Busch has carried somewhat of an asterisk next to his name in that championship season in the eyes of some fans, who feel he won the title without a full 36-race, season-long effort.

Now, the younger Busch brother has a chance to finally put those criticisms to rest by winning the championship Sunday.

KYLE BUSCH

Crew chief: Adam Stevens

2017 wins: 5 (Pocono II, Bristol II, Loudon II, Dover II, Martinsville II)

2017 Top 10s: 21

Laps Led: 1,980 (second in series)

Championship 4 history: Won it in 2015; Made it in 2016, finished third.

Memorable race: Passed Martin Truex Jr. with 33 laps to go to cap off a dominating performance in second playoff race at Loudon, leading 187 of 300 laps. He then doubled up by also winning the following week at Dover.

Playoff march: Started slow with 15th-place finish at Chicagoland, but then won at Loudon to earn automatic berth in Round of 12, then won at Dover. He struggled in Round of 12: 29th at Charlotte and 27th at Talladega, but 10th place at Kansas was enough to advance to Round of 8. Martinsville win put him into championship race.

Why Busch will win the title: Capped off 2015 championship run with win at Homestead. Now, with more attention focused on Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick, that’s exactly the best position for Busch to be in, as he thrives in situations like this. Also, Adam Stevens is one of the best crew chiefs in the game. If the race is decided on strategy, it’ll be because of Stevens.

Why Busch won’t win the title: Homestead hasn’t exactly been friendly to Busch. In 12 starts, he has one win, two top fives and only five top 10s.

What Dale Jarrett says (on if there’s a driver better at handling pressure than the younger Busch brother: “No, not really. You can say Kevin Harvick might be one, but Kyle Busch has proven that he knows exactly what to do. He’s had his back up against the wall, he’s come back from adversity, he’s got a great team and understands exactly what has to happen in this situation. I think the way he deals with pressure is with just tremendous talent. He believes in what he can do in a race car that others can’t do and that’ll get him by any pressures that might beat him.”

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