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Denny Hamlin reflects on Kobe Bryant and being a #GirlDad

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Defending Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin never met the late Kobe Bryant, but he can certainly relate to him, particularly with each of them being the father of daughters (Bryant had four and Hamlin has two).

Hamlin stopped by to chat with Nate Ryan for next week’s NASCAR on NBC Podcast and spoke about how he learned that Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gigi, along with seven others, were killed this past Sunday when the helicopter they were all riding in crashed into a hillside northwest of Los Angeles.

“Like most people, probably the way you shouldn’t,” Hamlin replied when asked how he first heard of the tragic news. “I logged on social media literally like 50 seconds after TMZ posted it. And of course the link was broken because either people were all clicking on it or (TMZ) was told to take it down.

“Immediately, I messaged my friends and sent them a link, and said, ‘This can’t be true.’ We waited for like 15 minutes and no other news outlet is saying anything because this was so fresh. Until I saw it on the local news in California, then I was like, ‘OK, this is real.’

“My first thought when they said five (people were killed), I said, ‘Oh no, it’s the whole (Bryant) family, right?’ It’s terrible it involved him and his daughter and whatnot. And when you think about it from his family standpoint, his wife and kids, gosh, it’s hard enough to lose your husband but what about your kid, too. Or you just lost a sister and your dad. I can’t remember a death that united so many people over these last 48 hours.”

Since Bryant’s death, the hashtag “#GirlDad” has become somewhat of a rallying cry of support to the Bryant family, particularly from fathers who also are so proud of their own daughters and how much they mean to them.

“I could totally see Kobe doing that,” Hamlin said. “I’ve never met Kobe but you’d seen enough interviews and heard him talk about people enough and I agree with him that I’m a girl dad. I love my daughters. They’re the ones that are going to take care of you.

“Your sons, they’re going to be like, ‘Ah, dad, whatever.’ You see women, when they grow up, always have that special bond with their dad. I have it with my kids for sure and it’s certainly special to have girls.”

Hamlin then added with a chuckle, “Even though, admittedly, I’ve wanted boys every time, I’m so happy with the girls I have. They’ve just been such great kids.”

Hamlin has two daughters: Taylor, who just turned 7 last week, and 2-year-old Molly.

Hamlin talked about Taylor and last week’s birthday party – and how she kind of reminds him of someone he knows quite well:

“She’s so funny and so full of energy,” Hamlin said of Taylor. “She’s not shy about anything which makes it always fun for kids that age and aren’t shy. Didn’t they have a show ‘Kids Say the Darndest Things’? She does.

“She likes to have the attention on her. I was at her birthday dinner one night with my brothers and sisters and parents and she’s running around and is so excited. I said, ‘This is so impossible for someone to have this much energy.’

“My brothers and sisters said, ‘What are you talking about? You were worse than her.’ Molly is such the opposite, totally low-key, totally independent. She has so much energy. I look back at old videos of me and, yeah, I was the same way. Something clicked where I became more reserved and more quiet and whatnot. Molly resembles the later version of me, for sure.”

Hear the rest of the NASCAR On NBC Podcast with Hamlin and Ryan when it is released early next week wherever you get podcasts. Hamlin also discusses his 2019 Daytona 500 victory, his new iRacing team with Michael Jordan and the 2020 free agency class.

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