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Taylor Moyer set to crew chief doubleheader for Dale Jr., Daniel Hemric

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When NASCAR announced the Xfinity Series would hold a doubleheader this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway, crew chief Taylor Moyer’s reaction wasn’t necessarily an enthusiastic one.

The 32-year-old crew chief for JR Motorsports’ No. 8 Chevrolet wouldn’t only be preparing for a doubleheader. He would be preparing for a doubleheader with two different drivers.

The first would be the “Boss Man,” Moyer’s nickname for team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr., set to make his lone start of the year Saturday. The driver for Sunday’s race is former Cup Series driver Daniel Hemric.

In his second year working on the No. 8 car, Moyer wasn’t even concerned about having to come up with two different setups for the No. 8 car.

He was worried about seats.

“I had nine drivers last year and I’ve got three this year (Earnhardt, Hemric and Jeb Burton) and the way we did the nine last year, other than the Boss Man, everybody ran the same seat shell,” Moyer told NBC Sports. “We run a (Hendrick Motorsports) carbon fiber seat shell, and it’s mounted in the same place in the car and everybody got poured for a custom insert. So interior swaps are very easy. We have a great interior guy at the shop, but even we could do it. You pull out one insert, you put in the other one, you adjust the steering wheel, the steering column … You swap out the steering wheel for whatever size wheel they want. And you put pedal extensions on. So we have that down to a science.”

Unfortunately, that science only applies under normal circumstances in a normal season. This year has been anything but that, with the doubleheader at Miami the latest NASCAR oddity in a COVID-19 world.

Saturday’s race is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET (Fox) and Sunday’s is scheduled for Noon ET (FS1).

While Moyer’s team can switch out car setups in roughly 15 minutes, switching from Earnhardt’s seat shell to Hemric’s isn’t so easy. With the inclusion of taking a brake assembly apart, it’s a process that will take roughly two hours.

Daniel Hemric (left) with crew chief Taylor Moyer.(HHP/Alan Marler)

“The Boss Man’s seat shell was custom built for him when he was at Hendrick back when I was there,” Moyer said. “He sits in a very a unique seat position. Sits real low, leans way back, like laying back in the car, kind of like his dad. He sits with his legs very wide open. His is a very, very different seat shell than all my other guys are on. And I know changing a seat shell, with all the componentry that goes with it, is probably out of the question for Homestead with the time they’re giving us to change, it has to be the same car.”

When the team had Hemric try out Earnhardt’s seat shell, Moyer said “his feet wouldn’t touch the pedals even though Dale’s not that much taller.”

The team poured Hemric a one-time insert for Earnhardt’s shell and then added pedal extensions and a new throttle pedal assembly and other “little Daniel idiosyncrasies.”

“Then luckily NASCAR’s letting us bring a couple additional crew members to the track and one of which is our interior guy from the shop, but that was the biggest concern,” Moyer said of the seat shell swap. “It wasn’t set up or anything like that, it was how do I physically in the time allotted let both drivers be safe and comfortable in the race car.”

Then Moyer can worry about the races. What difficulties are there in preparing two setups for two drivers who will be racing in different parts of the day?

“Maybe we over simplify it, but I don’t worry about stuff I can’t control,” Moyer said. “When we ended up racing Darlington a day later (due to rain), you can’t control the weather. Who knows when the races will actually fire off. So it all boils down to both guys. I was blessed to work with Dale a lot when he was at (Hendrick). I was the test engineer for that team. So I’ve tested a lot at Homestead with Dale. I feel like he loves to rip the wall. And I just want to put a car underneath him that’s very predictable out of the truck that he feels like he can put everywhere and is in complete control.

“Even if we don’t unload lightning fast, like he has to be a little tightened up so we don’t have it slip out from underneath him. I think confidence off the truck for him will be key. I’m using a little bit of what I know from last year working with him as his crew chief at Darlington. I know as the race goes, if he is passing cars and he is in a good mood it is lights out. It’s easy. I know if I miss it off the truck or I make the car too loose, and it’s slipping and sliding it’s gonna be much more of a chore than just freeing up a little bit if I’m too tight off the truck. With Daniel, we’re just gonna pick up where we left off at Atlanta.”

Saturday’s race will be Moyer’s second working with Earnhardt after he directed Earnhardt’s run last year at Darlington. But Moyer and Hemric have seven races together this season. They’ve finished sixth or better in the last four races, including a fourth-place finish at Atlanta.

“You have the differences of the pure little things of setup that one of us likes and one doesn’t,” Hemric said Thursday in a Zoom press conference. “I think Taylor and our engineers … they’ve done a great job of trying to get us to where we feel like our baseline is gonna suit both of us. Obviously, for me I get to be a part of the team and be very integrated into the process for the race on Saturday and as that happens, I think it will be enough for us to lean on.

“Dale’s a very practical race car driver and a guy when you look at what works and what doesn’t and I think he believes in the direction that we’ve chosen to go down for his race and hopefully it’s close enough where we can just fine tune it for myself.”

Moyer will have two goals this weekend: to get his boss and NASCAR’s 15-time most popular driver one more win and to get Hemric his first NASCAR national series victory.

Which provides the most pressure for the sophomore crew chief?

“That’s a tough one,” Moyer said. “I’m sure Junior Nation would carve my face into a tree somewhere, maybe as a monument if I get Dale another win. But I think Daniel is a good friend of mine now. We spend a lot of time together. And I want to see the kid win. Whether it’s me crew chiefing or not.  He’s a super strong talent. And I don’t know, he’s got six seconds now and man, he’s right on the cusp.”

 

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