Daniel Suarez moving in ‘right direction’ after first top five on oval

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Through the first 10 races of 2018, Daniel Suarez believes he had cars capable of placing in the top five and top 10.

“We just haven’t been able to get the deal done,” he said.

Suarez was able to do that Sunday at Dover International Speedway, finishing third for his second career top five and earning his career-best result on an oval.

In placing behind race winner Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver matched his previous career-best result of third last summer at Watkins Glen International.

Suarez started seventh, his first top 10 start since Atlanta (fourth) and placed fourth in Stage 1 and sixth in Stage 2.

Suarez credited his pit crew for putting him in a spot to compete in the top five.

“My pit crew did an amazing job right there in the last stop,” Suarez said of the pit stop that came after a red flag with 80 laps to go. He restarted fourth, gaining six spots in the pits.

“They did it right when it counts, so very proud of those guys,” Suarez said. “The team actually did great adjustments to help me in the short run when we were struggling a little bit and we were able to keep the third place, which is good for us. In the beginning of the season, we had some struggles and now finally it seems like we’re going in the right direction.”

Entering Dover, Suarez had three top 10s with a best finish of eighth (Phoenix). He had one DNF, but had finished off the lead lap six times. In his last three races he had finished 11th (Bristol) and 10th twice (Richmond, Talladega).

“I feel like I was putting a lot of pressure on myself earlier in the season, trying to put a lot of pressure on the team to get the results,” Suarez said. “The (last) month‑and‑a‑half, couple months, has been more relaxed, just trying to have fun and trying to get things going by itself, and definitely things are working better that way.”

Suarez’s previous best finish on an oval was sixth three times, in last season’s spring race at Dover, at New Hampshire and at Charlotte.

Dover is also the site of one of his three Xfinity Series wins.

Suarez now heads to Kansas Speedway for the first visit to a 1.5-mile track in four races. The sophomore driver finished seventh in that race last year and crashed out of the fall race.

“It’s always good when you have a good result and you have to go next week to try to match that or go even better,” Suarez said. “Definitely proud of my team, and right now I’m looking forward to working with my team and trying to go to Kansas just as strong as we did on this weekend.”

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