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Trevor Bayne faces uncertain future as he looks for a ride

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LAS VEGAS — Former Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne is unsure of his future with the announcement this week that he won’t return to Roush Fenway Racing after this season.

“I’ve called every team owner and every sponsor that I know probably twice or three times,” Bayne told NBC Sports on Friday morning in the garage at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. “For me, all I know right now is Texas. When I get to Nov. 5 that’s the last race I have scheduled that I know. Hopeful for an opportunity, but just don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Asked if he could take sponsor Advocare with him to prospective car owners, the 27-year-old Bayne told NBC Sports: “I don’t know what they’re going to do with the sport or Roush or whatever. As it stands, when I go to these team owners and they say, ‘How much money do you have?’ I’m kind of selling myself in I think I can win races if I’m in a really good car.”

Bayne said he would be open to a ride in Cup, Xfinity or the Camping World Truck Series part-time or full-time.

“I’ve struggled and I’ve seen what it’s like to run 15th every week, and I just don’t want to do that anymore,” he told NBC Sports. “To me, if I can’t get into a race-winning car, a top-10 car or a top-five car, then I don’t want to do it just to be here. For me, any opportunity I’m looking at (is) in a really good car with a really good team and really good culture.

“I do this to win races, not to make paycheck. I think I’ve got the ability to do it. I’ve proven that anytime we have fast cars, even Bristol a couple of weeks ago. When I’m in a fast car I can get it done. That’s what I’m looking for, what I’m wanting to do. I’m also praying about it. ‘Lord, what do you want me to do? If you want me here, I need an opportunity. If you don’t want me here, make it clear.’

“I just don’t know what’s going to happen next. It’s a scary, weird feeling to think about. Am I going to be in NASCAR or not next year? For me, that is a really hard thing to swallow. I’ve always said I’m not defined by this but when you actually get to that crossroads of ‘Hey, there may not any opportunity,’ it’s a weird feeling.”

Bayne has had a star-crossed career. He became the youngest driver at age 20 years and 1 day to win the Daytona 500 when he won the 2011 race for Wood Brothers Racing. The victory came in his second career Cup start.

Without enough funding, he was only able to run a partial Cup schedule from 2011-14 for the Wood Brothers. He returned to Roush Fenway Racing — where he ran in the Xfinity Series from late in the 2010 season through 2014. He won two Xfinity races during that stretch.

An unknown illness in 2011 that year sent him to the Mayo Clinic and kept him out of the car briefly. He ran 17 Cup races that year.

His results yo-yoed as Roush Fenway Racing struggled. The team announced in April that it was hiring Matt Kenseth to drive the No. 6 in select races, replacing Bayne.

“The first four weeks were super tough on me,” Bayne said of the time after Kenseth’s hiring. “Those weeks were a lot of anger, a lot of frustration and how could this happen? This is kind of unprecedented in how it was happening. It didn’t feel like that my performance, as far as compared to how our cars ran, warranted that but it’s just what God has for me right now.”

Bayne, who has made 182 career Cup starts, has five races remaining in the No. 6 car this season — Las Vegas, the Charlotte Roval, Talladega, Kansas and Texas.

“I just want to enjoy it,” Bayne said. “I love racing and it’s not fun to struggle at the Cup level. I know I can get it done at the Cup level. That’s not the question. To me, it’s more so what is the opportunity. I look at guys like Aric Almirola or even Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano, where they were in situations and got into a good car with a good culture and took off. I know I can do that.”

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Brandon Jones rallies late to earn first career Xfinity race at Kansas

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After starting from the front row next to pole sitter Christopher Bell, Brandon Jones fell backwards only to roar back late to win his first career Xfinity Series race Saturday at Kansas Speedway.

With the win, the 22-year-old Jones, who was knocked out of the playoffs after the Dover elimination race, still had an impact on how the Round of 8 began.

Jones was in the right place at the right time, taking advantage of late-race misfortune to Chase Briscoe and Bell, who were involved in a wreck with Garrett Smithley with 16 laps to go in the 200-lap event.

Equally as important was the great restart Jones got with four laps to go following another late caution that resulted from a crash that involved Joey Gase and Noah Gragson.

“This is incredible,” Jones told NBCSN. “I knew this would happen, we were going to come here and have an amazing run at the end of the day. … I’m not going to lie, my foot was literally shaking on the accelerator on the last lap, I’m not even sure I was wide open when I was doing it.

“There was a lot of nerve flow and emotion going through my mind but I saw it coming and I got pretty pumped.”

Tyler Reddick finished second, followed by Briscoe, Michael Annett and Justin Allgaier.

While Bell led 70 laps and Briscoe 33, their significant efforts were quickly derailed with 16 laps to go.

Briscoe was in the lead, with Bell right behind, when Briscoe tried to pass Garrett Smithley, who was five laps down at the time. But instead of yielding the high line on the track to Briscoe and Bell, Smithley washed up the track and Briscoe could not avoid contact, nor could Bell avoid contract with Briscoe.

Briscoe finished third, while Bell finished 12th.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Christopher Bell (18th stage win of season)

STAGE 2 WINNER: Cole Custer (eighth stage win of season)

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Briscoe overcame the late contact with Smithley and Bell to finish third. Also having a strong outing was Michael Annett, who potentially might have had a chance at a win if the race had gone a few more laps.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Making just his sixth start of the season, Ryan Truex had his car blow up on him after just four laps. “It sucks, that was my last race in this car (this season) and probably the best car we’ve had since Phoenix at the start of the year,” Truex told NBC. “We had a top five car for sure. That really sucks that we don’t even have a chance to show what we’ve got. … To not even have a chance is really hard to swallow.” … Harrison Burton, who on Thursday was announced that he would race full-time for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2020, made contact with Austin Cindric on Lap 70. “To me, it just felt like I flat out got wrecked,” Burton said of Cindric to NBC Sports. “It’s unfortunate and frustrating. … I guess he didn’t want to race, he just wanted to wreck.” Burton finished 34th, while Cindric was 25th.

NOTABLE: Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick were involved in a pushing and shoving match for about 20 seconds after the race, but were separated.

WHAT’S NEXT: The Xfinity Series has next weekend off. It returns to action for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on Nov. 2 (8:30 p.m. ET start, on NBCSN).

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Kyle Larson injured ribs in ‘probably the hardest hit I’ve ever had’

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Kyle Larson says he plans to drive the full distance Sunday at Kansas Speedway despite injuring his ribs in “probably the hardest hit I’ve ever had.”

Larson’s No. 42 Chevrolet ran into the No. 88 Chevy of Alex Bowman near the end of the second stage of Monday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway (video above).

Though the Chip Ganassi Racing driver hasn’t had an X-ray, Larson doesn’t think he broke his ribs, but they were hurting enough to require an icing after two Friday practices at Kansas. Larson posted a photo to his Instagram Story of his wrapped midsection with the caption, “Big fan of Super Speedways.”

Because everybody says there really is nothing you can do about ribs anyway,” Larson said when asked why he hadn’t gotten an X-ray. “It’s not broken. It definitely hurts to sneeze and cough, and when I’m in the seat, it’s tender. I’ve never broken a bone, but it’s definitely not broken.

Though he already has secured a spot in the third round of the Cup playoffs through his Oct. 6 victory at Dover International Speedway, Larson said he will run the 400 miles Sunday.

“Yeah, I think so,” he said after qualifying fifth Saturday, pausing to smile. “As long as I don’t hit the wall or anything. It should be fine.”

Larson also crashed in the April 28 race at Talladega, going airborne and rolling several times in a wreck that was reviewed by NASCAR.

Starting lineup for Sunday’s Cup playoff elimination race at Kansas

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Daniel Hemric will own prime real estate when the green flag drops for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup playoff race at Kansas Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC).

Hemric, who it was announced Sept. 17 that he would not return to drive the No. 8 for Richard Childress Racing next season, captured his first career Cup pole Saturday.

Cup veteran driver David Ragan, who announced August 14 that he will be retiring from full-time competition after this season, will start alongside Hemric on the front row.

The rest of the first five rows for Sunday’s race will be Team Penske teammates Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski in Row 2, Kyle Larson and Michael McDowell in Row 3, Ryan Newman and Daniel Suarez in Row 4 and Austin Dillon and Bubba Wallace in Row 5.

Kevin Harvick failed pre-qualifying inspection and did not make a qualifying attempt. He will start Sunday’s race last in the 40-car field.

This will be the second elimination race of the 10-race playoffs. The playoff field will be reduced from 12 to eight drivers.

Click here for the starting lineup.

Kevin Harvick to start at the rear after team passes inspection, then fails

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Kevin Harvick will start at the rear of Sunday’s Cup race after his team found an issue with its car and went though inspection after having passed it previously.

Harvick enters the race at Kansas Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC) 36 points ahead of Alex Bowman, who is the first driver outside a transfer spot. Sunday’s race will cut the playoff field from 12 to eight drivers.

Harvick’s No. 4 Ford failed its first attempt in inspection before qualifying Saturday at Kansas Speedway.

The team passed the second time but then found an issue with the car and made an adjustment. By doing so, the team had to go back through inspection. That meant that the second attempt — which the team had passed — then counted as a failure. NASCAR ejected a crew member (the team’s car chief) and docked the team 15 minutes of practice next week at Martinsville.

The team then went through a third time and failed. Teams are not allowed to attempt to qualify after a third failure. Harvick’s team also lost an additional 15 minutes of practice next week at Martinsville.

Here’s how crew chief Rodney Childers explained to NBC Sports what happened:

“We went through tech the first time, the back of the decklid was like 10 (thousandths of an inch) too low, which that is on us. Everybody pushes that as much as they can at a place like this. We raised the decklid and went back through and passed and everything was fine.

“As we were pushing it back to the garage, you could feel something just barely, barely ticking … on the body as you were pushing it. We got back to the garage and looked up under the back and the weight on the driveshaft was just barely at the tunnel, the driveshaft tunnel. So we kind of stood around for 30 minutes trying to decide should we just kind of go for it and hope it doesn’t become a problem or should we just fix it. Looking back on it maybe we should have just went for it, but we voluntarily went back and through tech and fixed it and then failed right rear toe by .03.

“When you’re doing big changes like that … you’ve got to lengthen the track bar out a couple of rounds. When you lengthen the track bar out a couple of lengths, since the day I stated Cup racing, if you did the track bar two rounds, you did the slug an eighth of an inch. That’s what we did. Then we failed right rear toe.

“It’s disappointing. It was a decision we made to try to be safe and not  have a problem in the race or anything like that. The biggest disappointment is just having to start in the back over something we did voluntarily. That’s what is disappointing.

“I think everybody in this garage would vote for each other and have each other’s back so that if you found a problem on your car and you went back through voluntarily that’s on the team and not counted as a failure. I don’t think that’s right.”

Childers said starting at the rear will be a challenge.

“That’s what we didn’t want to do (start at the rear),” he said. “I hate that it turned out that way. Our car has been fast all weekend. We’ve just got to get back up there and get some stage points and do all the right things. I’m sure he can pass 20 of them in the first five laps and hopefully get up there and contend as best we can.”

Harvick didn’t express too much concern about his situation.

It’s like I’ve talked from the very beginning, you deal with the situations as they approach you,” Harvick said. “It doesn’t matter if it this is the first race or an elimination race. You go about the circumstances that you are dealt. This is why I always tell you guys you just never know what the circumstances are going to be and you have to adopt and adjust as they present themselves.”