Power Rankings: Kevin Harvick reclaims No. 1 spot

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A week after being bumped off the No. 1 spot, Kevin Harvick reclaims the top position in this week’s NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings.

The top three is similar to last week. They are just in a different order.

Here is this week’s Power Rankings

1. Kevin Harvick (Last week No. 3): He just keeps going and going with top-five finishes. Harvick’s win Sunday at Dover marks his 11th top-five finish in the past 12 races. He has five wins during that stretch. Those runs have allowed Harvick to collect 57 playoff points, including 15 for winning the regular-season crown. You can pretty much put him down for the championship race in Phoenix.

2. Denny Hamlin (Last week No. 1): After a week atop the standings, he falls back a position even with a win last weekend. Hamlin won Saturday’s race at Dover. A loose wheel forced him to pit under green and led to a 19th-place finish Sunday. That ended a streak of six consecutive top-10 finishes. Five of those results were either a win or second-place finishes. He can start a new streak this weekend at Daytona. He’s won three Daytona 500s, including the past two.  

3. Martin Truex Jr. (Last week No. 2): After scoring five consecutive third-place finishes, a 1 million to one shot of happening, Truex left Dover with a pair of runner-up finishes. To any of his competitors overlooking him, Truex says: “We obviously haven’t won as many races as I think we should have, but we’re ready. Hopefully the momentum will swing our direction and they’ll forget about us and we’ll go beat them all.”

4. Joey Logano (Last week No. 5): He’s scored six consecutive top-10 finishes after placing eighth at Dover on Saturday and sixth on Sunday.

5. Jimmie Johnson (Last week tied No. 7): Gusty two-tire pit call by crew chief Cliff Daniels and determined drive by Johnson in the final laps led to a third-place finish Sunday. It wasn’t enough to keep him in a playoff spot, but he’s only four points behind Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron for the final playoff spot

6. Brad Keselowski (Last week tied No. 7): His 18 top-10 finishes this season are second only to Kevin Harvick’s 21. Keselowski has nine top 10s in the last 12 races. 

7. (tie) Chase Elliott (Last week No. 4): Finished fifth on Saturday but then ran into the back of Kyle Busch‘s car as the field slowed for a crash. That ended Elliott’s race in 39th. The finish ended his streak of five consecutive top 10s. 

7. (tie) Austin Cindric (Last week No. 5): This is how well things have gone for him lately. Going two Xfinity races without a win was a down weekend for Cindric even though he was second in Saturday’s race and third Sunday. He has five wins, two runner-ups and one third-place finish in the last eight races.

9. William Byron (Last week No. 10): Overcame a rotten race Saturday, placing 28th, to finish fourth on Sunday for his best result of the season. With the pressure on to make the playoffs, Byron was steady Sunday.

10. Chase Briscoe (Last week unranked): Snapped seven-race winless streak Sunday. That might not sound like a big deal but he won five of the first 13 Xfinity races this season.

Dropped out: Aric Almirola (Last week tied for 10th), Kaz Grala (Last week tied for 7th)

Las Vegas race results, driver points

Las Vegas race results
Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
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Kurt Busch scored his first career Cup victory at his hometown track, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and is the first driver to advance to third round of the playoffs.

Busch led the final 26 laps, taking advantage when a caution came out in the middle of a green-flag pit cycle. Busch was the only playoff driver who had yet to pit before the caution.

Matt DiBenedetto finished second and was followed by Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. and Alex Bowman.

Click here for Cup race results

DRIVER POINTS

Alex Bowman holds the final transfer spot to the next round. Kyle Busch trails Bowman by nine points. Clint Bowyer trails Bowman by 20 points. Aric Almirola trails Bowman by 27 points. Austin Dillon trails Bowman by 32 points.

Kurt Busch wins Las Vegas Cup race in overtime

Kurt Busch
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After entering the Round of 12 last in the playoff standings, Kurt Busch won Sunday’s Cup playoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in an overtime finish, claiming his first win of the season and advancing him into the Round of 8.

Busch held off Matt DiBenedetto and Denny Hamlin to also claim his first Cup win at his home track.

Busch led 29 of the last 34 laps. His time at the front of the pack was a result of leading when a caution came out during green flag pit stops late in the final stage. DiBenedetto was on pit road when the caution came out with 33 laps to go and restarted first with Busch second.

“This is what kids dream of,” Busch told NBCSN. ”

The top five was completed by Martin Truex Jr. and Alex Bowman.

The two-lap dash was caused by an incident involving William Byron, Christopher Bell and Corey LaJoie with seven laps to go. Bell cut a tire from contact with the wall and as he slowed Byron ran into the back of his car before going into a spin.

LaJoie received damage as he tried to avoid the incident.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Denny Hamlin

STAGE 2 WINNER: Chase Elliott

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Joey Logano finished 14th after he had to pit on Lap 91 to fix a left rear tire rub, a result of contact with Kyle Busch following Denny Hamlin’s three-wide pass for the lead on Lap 88Tyler Reddick finished 38th after he tagged the wall late in Stage 2 and went to the garage ending his day … After finishing sixth in the first two stages, Austin Dillon finished 32nd after an overheating problem forced him to pit road for repairs with 50 laps to go.

WHAT’S NEXT: Race at Talladega Superspeedway, 2 p.m. ET Oct. 4 on NBC

Check back for more

Sunday Cup race at Las Vegas: Start time, TV channel

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The second round of the Cup playoffs begins with the Sunday Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The 1.5-mile track kicks off the Round of 12. Winning the race and stage points are a premium for playoff drivers before the races at Talladega and the Charlotte Roval.

Kevin Harvick, who won at Bristol, starts from the pole.

Here is all the info for the Sunday Cup race at Las Vegas:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given by Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis at 7:07 p.m. The green flag waves at 7:17 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at Noon. Drivers report to their cars at 6:50 p.m. The invocation will be given at 7 p.m. by Motor Racing Outreach Chaplain, Billy Mauldin. The national anthem will be performed by Sierra Black at 7:01 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 267 laps (400.5 miles) around the 1.5-mile track.

COMPETITION CAUTION: Lap 25

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 80. Stage 2 ends on Lap 160

TV/RADIO: NBCSN will televise the race. Coverage begins at 6 p.m with NASCAR America, followed by Countdown to Green at 6:30 p.m. Race coverage begins at 7 p.m. Performance Racing Network’s radio coverage will begin at 6 p.m. and also can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the broadcast.

STREAMING: Watch the race on the NBC Sports App

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for sunny skies with a high of 96 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST RACE: Kevin Harvick beat Kyle Busch to win at Bristol and claim his ninth win of the season.

LAST POINTS RACE AT LAS VEGAS: Joey Logano beat Matt DiBenedetto and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in February.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the lineup.

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Kurt Busch seeks first Las Vegas win, but without hometown fans

Kurt Busch
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A win by Kurt Busch in tonight’s Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7 p.m. ET on NBCSN) couldn’t come under more bittersweet circumstances for the Chip Ganassi Racing driver.

Should Busch claim the victory on the 1.5-mile track, he’d go from being the last driver on the playoff grid (3,001 points entering the race) to the first driver to advance to the Round of 8.

While it would be his first victory of the year, it would also be his first NASCAR win at his home track in 23 starts across the Cup and Xfinity Series.

More: Stage points critical at Vegas

“The Vegas track has definitely been one of the tough ones for me over the years with results and finishes not where I would have expected them to be,” Busch said this week. “And the teams that I’ve raced for just have never quite found that right magic set-up or combination. And then for me, it’s a track that I just have that trouble with.

“There are a few tracks like Indianapolis and Martinsville; those are a few places where I struggle. And so with Vegas, I always put that little extra hometown pressure on myself and I would love to win there.”

The 42-year-old Las Vegas-native rolls off ninth on the 1.5-mile track. It’s his fourth while driving for Ganassi.

In his 21 Cup starts in Las Vegas, Busch’s best result is third in 2005 when he competed for Roush Fenway Racing. He has just one other top five. That came in last year’s spring race when he drove a throwback paint scheme to his 1999 NASCAR Southwest Series championship.

That day he led 23 laps. It was only the seventh time he’d led laps there and just the third time he’d totaled more than six laps led.

In February, Busch finished 25th.

If Busch were to finally make it to Vegas’ Victory Lane, the celebration would be somewhat muted.

It was announced last weekend that fans would not be allowed to attend the races at Las Vegas due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I would love to win through the spirit of the camera and everything on NBC Sports; and I know the fans there, local, will be watching and cheering on the Busch brothers,” Busch said. “So, that’s where I would connect. And hopefully do it through the TV side of it. We’ll get fans back one day and we’ll come back and race.”

Busch enters the Round of 12 having earned just one top 10 in the first round, an eighth-place finish at Darlington. He finished 13th at Richmond and 15th at Bristol.

“What I like is we have had better lap times at all three races so far compared to maybe the five or six races leading into the playoffs,” Busch said. “We know that our cushion is gone. We ended Bristol with 33 points to the good. And now we start Vegas minus four (points behind Austin Dillon in the cutoff spot). So that’s just part of the system and now we have to be perfect. We have to get every point possible that we’re able to get on our own at Vegas, Talladega, and the Roval. And, that should help us advance.”