What Cup Series playoff field has accomplished this season

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After 26 races, the 2020 Cup Series playoff field is set.

Sixteen drivers start a 10-race battle for the championship that begins Sunday at Darlington Raceway (6 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Over those 10 races the 16 drivers will be whittled down to four ahead of the championship race at Phoenix on November 8.

Here’s a breakdown of the 16 drivers who will race for the title.

Kevin Harvick (2,057 points) — Regular-season champion enters the postseason with 57 playoff points … Made playoffs for 11th consecutive year … Series-leading seven wins … 21 top 10s through 26 races … Won Brickyard 400 for second straight year … Earned first Cup win at Pocono … Swept doubleheader weekend at Michigan … Made championship four the last three seasons … Won title in 2014 … Won at Texas in the playoffs last year.

Denny Hamlin (2,047) — Six Cup wins through 26 races, tying his 2019 total … Seventh consecutive playoffs … Won the Daytona 500 for the third time and the second straight year … Seeking first championship … Has 43 career Cup wins … Earned first Cup win at Dover … Won at Kansas and Phoenix in the playoffs last year. Phoenix is the site of the championship race this season.

Brad Keselowski (2,029) — Earned three wins this season … Earned three wins in each of the previous three seasons … Won Coke 600 for first time … Seventh consecutive playoff appearance … Made championship four twice … Seeking second title … At one point had 14 top 10s in a 16-race stretch … Winless in playoffs last year.

Joey Logano (2,022) — Two wins this year. Both came in the first four races (Las Vegas and Phoenix) … Third straight year in playoffs … Has made championship four three times … Seeking second title.

Chase Elliott (2,020) — Two wins this season, at Charlotte and Daytona road course … Made playoffs in all five Cup seasons … Won All-Star Race at Bristol … Won on the Charlotte Roval in the playoffs last year.

Martin Truex Jr. (2,014) — One win this year (Martinsville) … Seeking second title … Enters playoffs with eight finishes of fourth or better in a row … Made championship four in the last three seasons and four times overall … Won at Las Vegas, Richmond and Martinsville in the playoffs last year.

Ryan Blaney (2013) — One win this year (Talladega) … Fourth straight year in playoffs … Won at Talladega in the playoffs last year.

Alex Bowman (2,009) —  One win this year (Auto Clubs Speedway) … Third straight year in playoffs … Three top fives and eight top 10s this season.

William Byron (2,007) — Earned first career Cup win Saturday at Daytona in his 98th start … His two top-five finishes this year have come in the last two races … Second straight year in playoffs.

Austin Dillon (2,005) — One win this year (Texas) … Fourth year in playoffs … Missed Daytona road course race after testing positive for COVID-19.

Cole Custer (2,005) — One win this year (Kentucky) … Only rookie to make the playoffs … Earned two top fives and six top 10s this season.

Aric Almirola (2,005) — No wins this year … Hasn’t won since Talladega playoff race in 2018 … Career best five top fives this year … Had career-best streak of nine top 10s in a row … Third consecutive playoff appearance.

Clint Bowyer (2,004) — No wins this year … Winless since 2018 at Michigan … Last win on a playoff track was at Martinsville in 2018 … Two top fives and seven top 10s this season.

Kyle Busch (2,003) — Defending series champion … Seeking third title … Eight consecutive playoff appearance … No wins through 26 races. Deepest into season he’s gone without winning in his Cup career … Won at Miami last year to claim title. Was only win in playoffs last year.

Kurt Busch (2,001) — No wins this year … Last win was at Kentucky last year … Seventh consecutive playoff appearance … Last win in playoff race was Bristol 2018 … Four top fives and 14 top 10s

Matt DiBenedetto (2,000) — First career playoff appearance … No wins this year … Two top fives this season. Seven top 10s, matching his total from last year … First year Wood Brothers Racing has made playoffs since 2017 with Ryan Blaney.

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.”