‘How Bout That!?’: Awards, superlatives for the 2018 NASCAR season

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The NASCAR season is over as far as on-track action. But the Cup season will be put to bed for good Thursday with the awards banquet in Las Vegas (9 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

But we have our own set of  awards and superlatives to give out before saying goodbye to NASCAR’s 70th season of competition.

The “I’ve Got Something in My Eye” Moment of the Year

Before this year it had been a long time since Clint Bowyer won a Cup race. So long that his son, Cash, was born two years after his last win at Charlotte in October 2012. So when Bowyer ended a 190-race winless streak in March at Martinsville, it provided this moment of Bowyer running down the frontstretch to celebrate with his 4-year-old son.

(Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

Most Clint Bowyer Moment of the Year

Race winner press conferences typically only last a half hour when you’re: A) Dale Earnhardt Jr., B) a first-time winner or C) Bowyer after snapping his already mentioned 190-race winless streak.

With Cash in his arms, Bowyer yelled “How bout that?!” to the entire Martinsville media center and let out a holler that had built up over six years. It was on from there.

 

Most GIFable Kyle Busch Moment of the Year

You might not remember much about the Xfinity night race at Bristol Motor Speedway in August, which was won by Kyle Larson.

But thanks to Kyle Busch getting into the marbles and hitting the wall on Lap 70 while he led, the race will live forever on Twitter and in our hearts thanks to this moment at the end of Busch’s interview.

 

 

The “That Could’ve Been A Lot Worse” Save of the Year

Denny Hamlin had a rough year, going winless for the first time in his full-time Cup career.

Hamlin kept his season from being a little more awful with this moment from the playoff race at Richmond Raceway. On Lap 52, Hamlin was caught from behind by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who was faster after he pitted a few laps earlier. Stenhouse tagged Hamlin’s left rear as they exited Turn 4, sending Hamlin sideways.

But Hamlin kept the car from going completely around and no one hit him. After he pit, Hamlin fought back to finish ninth in Stage 1.

 

Reminder that Stage Racing is Pretty Good, Part 1

The best stage racing moments are not reserved for short tracks.

Everyone will remember the last-lap battle between Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch at Chicagoland Speedway. But don’t forget the end of Stage 2.

Kurt Busch led with one lap to go and teammate Kevin Harvick was close behind. Harvick pounced entering Turn 3, going high to get by Busch. The two nearly made contact as Busch took him all the way to the wall, getting sideways in the process.

Harvick squeaked by for the stage win.

Reminder that Stage Racing is Pretty Good, Part 2

Nineteen races later in Miami, in the season finale, Harvick got a taste of his own medicine courtesy of Kyle Larson.

Larson took his trademark high line all the way around Homestead-Miami Speedway on the last lap of Stage 2, passing Harvick out of Turn 4 to take the green checkered flag.

Best Throwback Scheme of the Year

Retro paint schemes were aplenty this season, from the All-Star Race to the Southern 500 and finally Jimmie Johnson’s throwback scheme in the season finale in Miami.

But the best effort in throwbacks goes to Austin Dillon and Richard Childress Racing for in the Southern 500. While the No. 3 Chevrolet didn’t have the GM Goodwrench sponsorship, RCR’s tribute to Dale Earnhardt’s “Quicksilver” 1995 All-Star scheme was a throwback in more than just the car. Like in 1995, the team didn’t unveil the scheme until they showed up at the track.

(Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Best Outcome for a Bad Situation

In July, Bubba Wallace experienced a wreck at Pocono that took his breath away and scrapped his No. 43 Chevrolet.

A few days later, Dale Earnhardt Jr. called into NASCAR’s “Glass Case of Emotion” Podcast to ask Wallace if the destroyed car could be added to his famed race car graveyard.

In September, Earnhardt’s Dirty Mo Media published “The Requiem,” a video depicting the car’s funeral.

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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

 

 

Kurt Busch win capped off big racing weekend for family

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After hopping from the door of his No. 1 Chevrolet Sunday night, Kurt Busch let out a primal scream.

The source of his emotion?

“20 years of agony and defeat” at the his home track, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, had been replaced by “triumph.”

After the fortunate timing of a caution and pit strategy Sunday night, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver led the final 26 laps and visited LVMS’ Victory Lane for the first time, a day after his brother Kyle Busch experienced a special win.

There was plenty more for the 42-year-old driver to celebrate. He’d entered the Round of 12 as the last driver in the playoff standings. But with his first win in 46 races, Busch became the first driver to plant in his flag in the Round of 8.

But the Las Vegas native’s focus was on the 1.5-mile track, which he’d seen evolve from a “desert gravel pit” into the site of two NASCAR race weekends each year.

“This feeling of growing up here and watching the track get built … when Speedway Motorsports came in and bought it, I’m like, ‘Man, there’s going to be a Cup race there, I hope I can make my way up through Legend cars (and race there). And just all the memories, all the memories of everybody, my mom and dad, every Saturday night, all the commitment they gave me and my little brother (Kyle Busch) to make it in racing.

“For me it was a hobby. I never knew I’d get this far. A guy named Craig Keough here locally in Las Vegas, the owner of the Star Nurseries here in Las Vegas, took a chance on me and let me run his late model a few times and we won a couple races and started working our way up.”

Busch made his first NASCAR start on the Las Vegas oval in 2001 driving for Roush Fenway Racing. Between then and Sunday, he won 31 Cup races, the 2004 championship and the 2017 Daytona 500.

But his home track eluded him until his 21st year competing on the sport’s top circuit.

Busch said Sunday’s win is “right there underneath” his Daytona win and the championship.

“Any time you win, it’s special,” Busch said. “But to do it in front of my hometown crowd and nobody was there (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) and all the people that I see every time I come to Vegas and I get to say thank you and I can’t right now, that’s the hardest part. So this one is easily ramping up to being my third most favorite win ever.

“Right now it’s my favorite because it’s here, it’s Vegas, and I have so many people to thank. They know they helped me, and they know who they are, and it just all started with mom and dad taking me to the racetrack right here at the Bullring in Las Vegas.”

The Busch family got to celebrate more than one win over the weekend.

The night before Kurt’s Vegas breakthrough, a third generation racer got his first taste of victory.

Kyle and Samantha Busch’s son, Brexton, won his first karting race and celebrated with his parents in Victory Lane.

“It’s so much fun to watch him and just to see his excitement and how much he enjoys going to the race track and being with is friends,” Kyle Busch said after his sixth-place finish Sunday. “It’s three generations worth, I guess. My dad (Tom) did it, myself and Kurt and now him. It’s pretty fun to just be out there. My dad is kind of the truck driver, the team manager, the crew chief, the lead mechanic and all that stuff on his kart.

“He’s got a big task at hand in order to get it all ready to go and get us to the race track every week. It’s been fun to see (Brexton) and to see how excited he was when he was able to win and beat the other competition that was out there and to see his joy. I told him, ‘Whatever that feeling is, whatever you’re feeling, however that sits in you, that’s feasible, that’s possible a lot more often than just one time. So don’t rest on just getting one, we gotta go out there and fight for more.'”

Kurt Busch wasn’t there for his nephew’s win, but he got all the details from his sister-in-law as they flew to Las Vegas.

“It definitely felt like a generational shift was happening,” he said. “But maybe not. Maybe not. This old guy has still got it going on.”