Cole Custer earns 7th win of season, now it’s on to Xfinity 2nd round

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His car may carry the number 00, but Cole Custer was No. 1 Saturday, winning the final race of the first round of the Xfinity playoffs at Dover International Speedway, propelling him and seven other drivers into the Round of 8, which begins in two weeks at Kansas.

It was Custer’s seventh win of the season, tying him with Christopher Bell for most wins in the 2019 Xfinity Season. Custer led 31 laps in his 100th career start in the Xfinity Series. It was also the ninth career Xfinity Series win for the 21-year-old Custer.

“I’ve wanted to win here so bad for so long,” Custer told NBCSN. “I’ve been close a number of times. To win the gold Monster (trophy) is just unbelievable. … I think it’s every driver’s favorite race track. Everybody wants the Monster. It’s such a cool race track. … It’s definitely one you want to cross off the box.”

Justin Allgaier finished second, followed by Austin Cindric, Justin Haley and Chase Briscoe. Sixth through 10th were Michael Annett, Noah Gragson, John Hunter Nemechek, Zane Smith and Ryan Sieg.

The eight drivers that move on to the second round of the playoffs are: Christopher Bell, Briscoe, Custer, Cindric, Allgaier, Tyler Reddick, Gragson and Annett. The first seven drivers were locked into the playoffs either coming into the race or during the race, except for Annett, who had to race his way into the second round with a strong performance late in the race, holding off Haley and Nemechek and keeping both of them from advancing.

“I was trying to do my high school math out there and I think I needed to beat the 23 (Nemechek) by eight (points) in that last segment, so our strategy helped,” Annett told NBCSN. :I just wanted to hang tough and bring it home and that’s what these guys deserved. This is my best playoff run since we’ve started these playoffs so I’m looking forward to it as we have a lot of good tracks ahead of us.”

The four drivers that were eliminated from advancing in the playoffs were Brandon Jones, Nemechek, Sieg and Haley.

Even though he’s assured of moving on to Round 2, it was an uncharacteristically bad day for points leader Christopher Bell, who had to pit during Stage 1 to replace a carburetor, dropping him 14 laps behind the leaders. Bell returned to the race and finished 25th.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Justin Allgaier 

STAGE 2 WINNER: Justin Allgaier (seventh stage win of season; second time he’s swept both stages in a race this season – also did it at Bristol in spring).

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Cole Custer is one of Xfinity’s so-called “Big 3” and showed why he is in that elite company Saturday. He may not have had the best car, but great pit strategy and staying out of trouble brought home the win and put him in second place in the reset points heading into Round 2 of the playoffs. … And don’t overlook Chase Briscoe’s rally from last for unapproved adjustments after a misfire in qualifying to first before finishing fifth. He led a race-high 71 laps before the misfire returned late in the event.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Brandon Jones’ hopes to advance to the second round of the Xfinity playoffs lasted just two turns before he was involved in a first lap wreck with Harrison Burton that left Jones’ car unable to be repaired. “I always try to find the positives with this kind of stuff, obviously none today,” Jones, who finished 37th, told NBSCN. … Jeremy Clements’ motor blew up on Lap 10, ending his day (finished 36th).

NOTABLE: Brandon Brown‘s 11th-place finish was his best finish since placing sixth at Daytona in July. Saturday’s finish marked the second time he’s placed better than 12th this year. 

WHAT’S NEXT: The Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway kicks off the Round of 8 second round of the Xfinity playoffs on Oct. 19 at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

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.”