Can Kurt Busch finally run for daylight at Talladega?

Leave a comment

In a way, racing at Talladega Superspeedway is kind of like a football game for Kurt Busch. If he can block those who are trying to tackle or stiff-arm him, he believes he can ultimately run for daylight and the win that has eluded him throughout his Cup career.

“To be able to block all these guys at the end and win it,” Busch said of the key to winning at NASCAR’s longest speedway in a Friday teleconference.

But, try as he may, Busch has yet to take a checkered flag at ‘Dega in 38 previous starts. His best finish to date was runner-up in the spring 2018 race.

“I’ve been in great positions and top-five finishes and coming from behind, but yet, even leading on the last lap and still not able to pull a win, that’s been the toughest,” he said. “You’ve got to be in position to win, which I believe is leading, or second, looking for that slingshot, and that’s been the toughest part is to be able to complete the day to be able to win it.”

The driver of the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE comes into this weekend’s race ranked 10th in the Cup Series standings, 21 points behind brother and ninth-ranked Kyle Busch, and 125 points behind series leader Kevin Harvick.

Even though Talladega is a wildcard race at best, it also kicks off a very key part of the schedule, with five straight races – Dega, a Pocono doubleheader, Indianapolis and Kentucky – that could go a long way towards determining what the eventual Cup playoffs will look like and where the elder Busch brother will place in it.

“I’m looking forward to these next few weeks,” Busch said. “I think we can do really well at Talladega, Kentucky, and Indianapolis. The way that this point of the season is coming together, a lot of these tracks are going to be hot. A lot of them are going to be slick. And that’s what we have to manage without set-ups.”

Even though Cup cars will carry a new rules package to mitigate some of the circumstances incurred in Ryan Newman’s crash in the season-opening Daytona 500, teams will essentially go into Sunday’s race cold, with no practice or qualifying.

Essentially, it will be trial-and-error for drivers, particularly early in the race until the competition caution.

“I think the challenge of all this newness has really put a strategy or a re-thinking into how you approach all the races,” Busch said. “I think with a team like Ganassi and myself, we’re doing a great job at finding the balance right away in the races.

“And then with the way the track is rubbering-in and taking the Goodyear tires and changing the handling characteristics, that’s what we’ve got to do a little bit better with to have more positive outcomes at the end.

“But man, the pit crew has got to be ready to go. You have your set-up balance right away. And then the energy and the vibe that isn’t there pre-race, from our race fans, and autograph sessions, the photos, the crowd, that’s something that’s been tough. You have to block that out because we are all missing that. That’s been one of the toughest parts. We miss our race fans.

“For me, with our group at Ganassi and the restrictor plate races that we have run together, our set-up balance has been really good in practice right off the truck. And so there haven’t been those challenges of where are we for balance?

“So, it allows us to go on offense right away. The problem with that is other teams. Are they just as good right off the truck? And we don’t need to be caught-up in a goofy situation early-on.

“And so there’s the competition yellow that will happen, and that’s been how we’ve been evaluating our races. It’s just ease our way towards that, and then go hard after that because it answers a lot of questions that are hard to really answer because of all the tangibles that we’re dealing with.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski

NASCAR announces changes to Kansas playoff weekend

Leave a comment

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

Leave a comment

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

Leave a comment

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

Leave a comment

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.”